Cop drones

The small unmanned aircraft that are proving to be such a powerful weapon in our nation’s military operations are coming to a community near you.  The police are going to get their hands on them.  They have already been used in some limited cases against truly bad guys, but so far the FAA has to approve each use of them and only for “emergency” purposes.  But in 2013 the FAA expects to loosen the requirements, allowing the police to use them routinely.  Speeders, beware.

Some civil liberty folks are concerned.  Do they have a basis for their objection?   Short of a totalitarian take-over that would monitor citizens’ every move, do you see a problem with this?

Domestic use of aerial drones by law enforcement likely to prompt privacy debate.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • WebMonk

    Can we all say Skynet!

  • WebMonk

    Can we all say Skynet!

  • Dan Kempin

    “Short of a totalitarian take-over that would monitor citizens’ every move . . .”

    Isn’t this pretty close? What possible reason can there be for the government to turn this weapon against her own population?
    perhaps I’m a bit ahead of the curve here, but I see this as a tool for intimidation, not law enforcement.

  • Dan Kempin

    “Short of a totalitarian take-over that would monitor citizens’ every move . . .”

    Isn’t this pretty close? What possible reason can there be for the government to turn this weapon against her own population?
    perhaps I’m a bit ahead of the curve here, but I see this as a tool for intimidation, not law enforcement.

  • Porcell

    Law abiding people will not be in the slightest affected by these drones. Can anyone say which of their legal rights have been violated by the drones?

    As it is, permission for drone surveillance must be obtained by the FAA; any thermal imaging within houses requires a search warrant.

    Law abiding people will be well served by this new law enforcement weapon.

  • Porcell

    Law abiding people will not be in the slightest affected by these drones. Can anyone say which of their legal rights have been violated by the drones?

    As it is, permission for drone surveillance must be obtained by the FAA; any thermal imaging within houses requires a search warrant.

    Law abiding people will be well served by this new law enforcement weapon.

  • LAJ

    I can think of a great place to use them–the Mexican/US border!

  • LAJ

    I can think of a great place to use them–the Mexican/US border!

  • WebMonk

    Dan @ 2:

    What possible reason can there be for the government to turn this weapon against her own population?

    Weapon? Do you mean that in the literal sense, because if you do, then you’re wrong because the things have no weapons on them. They’re strictly flying cameras.

    This certainly could be an invasion of privacy depending on how they are used. If they’re strictly used to watch public areas – streets, parks, etc – then I don’t see any problem.

    However, if they are used to look at private residences without the residents’ permission, then it would be an invasion of privacy similar to if a policeman were to go walking through private property without permission.

    The only loophole I can see for watching private residences without a warrant, legally, would be if courts decided the drones were analogous to having a policeman watching from across the street. I REALLY don’t think that would pass any court’s examination, but it would be a way police could try to use them on private properties without advanced warrants.

    Obviously, if they get a warrant to have one of these things watch a private property, that’s a different matter.

  • WebMonk

    Dan @ 2:

    What possible reason can there be for the government to turn this weapon against her own population?

    Weapon? Do you mean that in the literal sense, because if you do, then you’re wrong because the things have no weapons on them. They’re strictly flying cameras.

    This certainly could be an invasion of privacy depending on how they are used. If they’re strictly used to watch public areas – streets, parks, etc – then I don’t see any problem.

    However, if they are used to look at private residences without the residents’ permission, then it would be an invasion of privacy similar to if a policeman were to go walking through private property without permission.

    The only loophole I can see for watching private residences without a warrant, legally, would be if courts decided the drones were analogous to having a policeman watching from across the street. I REALLY don’t think that would pass any court’s examination, but it would be a way police could try to use them on private properties without advanced warrants.

    Obviously, if they get a warrant to have one of these things watch a private property, that’s a different matter.

  • Tom Hering

    Military-style drones are expensive, and expensive to operate. They won’t be routinely used by police. Of real concern are MAVs (micro air vehicles) that can be launched from patrol cars, and hover outside the windows of our homes. Even enter our homes – and being no bigger than a dragonfly – go from room to room unobserved. Hopefully, laws will be enacted that limit the use of all advanced surveillance technologies (fourth amendment).

    CCTV is another matter. Will there be a workplace, business, or public space left (including roads and intersections) that doesn’t employ CCTV to record us? Or to scan our behavior and appearance in real time using computer programs?

    “Law abiding people will not be in the slightest affected by these drones.” – Porcell @ 3.

    It all depends on how government defines or redefines “law abiding,” doesn’t it? For example, the way lawful assembly and protest can now be limited to the apartheid of “free speech zones.”

  • Tom Hering

    Military-style drones are expensive, and expensive to operate. They won’t be routinely used by police. Of real concern are MAVs (micro air vehicles) that can be launched from patrol cars, and hover outside the windows of our homes. Even enter our homes – and being no bigger than a dragonfly – go from room to room unobserved. Hopefully, laws will be enacted that limit the use of all advanced surveillance technologies (fourth amendment).

    CCTV is another matter. Will there be a workplace, business, or public space left (including roads and intersections) that doesn’t employ CCTV to record us? Or to scan our behavior and appearance in real time using computer programs?

    “Law abiding people will not be in the slightest affected by these drones.” – Porcell @ 3.

    It all depends on how government defines or redefines “law abiding,” doesn’t it? For example, the way lawful assembly and protest can now be limited to the apartheid of “free speech zones.”

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Oooh! Oooh! I can’t wait. It will be like star wars. Maybe they will make that cool background bleep/blooping noise too!

    When I get old, my friendly neighborhood drone can help me cross the street. That will be so sweet!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Oooh! Oooh! I can’t wait. It will be like star wars. Maybe they will make that cool background bleep/blooping noise too!

    When I get old, my friendly neighborhood drone can help me cross the street. That will be so sweet!

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Truthfully, I think the bigger problem that we have is not so much catching criminals as what to do when we have got them. Our justice system is the issue.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Truthfully, I think the bigger problem that we have is not so much catching criminals as what to do when we have got them. Our justice system is the issue.

  • Dan Kempin

    Porcell, #3,

    You have a surprisingly high level of trust on this one. I’m not sure why. Maybe I should just give my house keys to law enforcement, you know, in case they ever need to serve a warrant. I’m sure they are trustworthy.

    Webmonk, #5,

    “Weapon? . . . They’re strictly flying cameras.”

    Well, then. I guess they are harmless. Especially when the guys flying them all have guns.

  • Dan Kempin

    Porcell, #3,

    You have a surprisingly high level of trust on this one. I’m not sure why. Maybe I should just give my house keys to law enforcement, you know, in case they ever need to serve a warrant. I’m sure they are trustworthy.

    Webmonk, #5,

    “Weapon? . . . They’re strictly flying cameras.”

    Well, then. I guess they are harmless. Especially when the guys flying them all have guns.

  • Joe

    “Law abiding people will not be in the slightest affected by these drones.” – Porcell @ 3.

    This is very reassuring. Thankfully we have no examples from history or the present of police ever misusing technology or techniques that could be lawfully used.

    “Can anyone say which of their legal rights have been violated by the drones?” – Porcell @3

    Well, since they are not in regular use yet, I am going to guess that the answer hear is no (for the time being). But the question is backwards. We should not approach policing from the standpoint of what is the absolute maximum (just shy of violating some rights) that the cops can get away with. Instead, the cops should have to justify this with extremely specific arguments as to why this potentially violative technology is necessary. Just because we can monitor every public park or private backyard from the sky does not mean we should.

  • Joe

    “Law abiding people will not be in the slightest affected by these drones.” – Porcell @ 3.

    This is very reassuring. Thankfully we have no examples from history or the present of police ever misusing technology or techniques that could be lawfully used.

    “Can anyone say which of their legal rights have been violated by the drones?” – Porcell @3

    Well, since they are not in regular use yet, I am going to guess that the answer hear is no (for the time being). But the question is backwards. We should not approach policing from the standpoint of what is the absolute maximum (just shy of violating some rights) that the cops can get away with. Instead, the cops should have to justify this with extremely specific arguments as to why this potentially violative technology is necessary. Just because we can monitor every public park or private backyard from the sky does not mean we should.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Speeders beware? What they need to do is do away with the ridiculously stupid speed limits on our interstates. Thereby doing away with half of the highway patrol, that can then be retrained to do something useful somewhere else. I mean there is actually illegal activity happening in other places.
    But the drones for police work? No. We don’t need to buy expensive toys for them to play with when they should be doing their job.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Speeders beware? What they need to do is do away with the ridiculously stupid speed limits on our interstates. Thereby doing away with half of the highway patrol, that can then be retrained to do something useful somewhere else. I mean there is actually illegal activity happening in other places.
    But the drones for police work? No. We don’t need to buy expensive toys for them to play with when they should be doing their job.

  • Carl Vehse

    LAJ @4: I can think of a great place to use them–the Mexican/US border!

    What?!? And replace the voter registration booths for those coming across the Rio Grande?

  • Carl Vehse

    LAJ @4: I can think of a great place to use them–the Mexican/US border!

    What?!? And replace the voter registration booths for those coming across the Rio Grande?

  • Porcell

    Joe, at 10, of course, some law enforcement rabble go over the line, just as some lawyers do, though that’s no argument against drones or any other effective law-enforcement tool.

  • Porcell

    Joe, at 10, of course, some law enforcement rabble go over the line, just as some lawyers do, though that’s no argument against drones or any other effective law-enforcement tool.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Isn’t this pretty close? What possible reason can there be for the government to turn this weapon against her own population?
    perhaps I’m a bit ahead of the curve here, but I see this as a tool for intimidation, not law enforcement.”

    Why doesn’t the government of Mexico give it a test run. Then they can give us a report of how well it worked? They actually have and need a police state because they have almost no social trust.
    Are we there yet?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Isn’t this pretty close? What possible reason can there be for the government to turn this weapon against her own population?
    perhaps I’m a bit ahead of the curve here, but I see this as a tool for intimidation, not law enforcement.”

    Why doesn’t the government of Mexico give it a test run. Then they can give us a report of how well it worked? They actually have and need a police state because they have almost no social trust.
    Are we there yet?

  • Joe

    “Joe, at 10, of course, some law enforcement rabble go over the line, just as some lawyers do, though that’s no argument against drones or any other effective law-enforcement tool.” – Porcell @ 13

    Yes actually it is. It is a very sound argument. When ever you look at introducing a new technology or methodology to law enforcement (which is the agency of gov’t that is both most likely and most able to violate the rights of the citizenry) it is not only rational but necessary to consider how easy it will be to abuse the new technology/methodology.

  • Joe

    “Joe, at 10, of course, some law enforcement rabble go over the line, just as some lawyers do, though that’s no argument against drones or any other effective law-enforcement tool.” – Porcell @ 13

    Yes actually it is. It is a very sound argument. When ever you look at introducing a new technology or methodology to law enforcement (which is the agency of gov’t that is both most likely and most able to violate the rights of the citizenry) it is not only rational but necessary to consider how easy it will be to abuse the new technology/methodology.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “What they need to do is do away with the ridiculously stupid speed limits on our interstates.”

    When I was young, I was a better and more alert driver. Now I never drive over 70, even if allowed, because I no longer have the confidence that I can control the car any faster than that. As our population ages, there are more people in that category. There are probably people out there who shouldn’t drive over 60 because their reaction time is too slow. It is not responsible to set the limit based on what the most competent drivers can handle. Better to set it for what the 30%ile can manage.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “What they need to do is do away with the ridiculously stupid speed limits on our interstates.”

    When I was young, I was a better and more alert driver. Now I never drive over 70, even if allowed, because I no longer have the confidence that I can control the car any faster than that. As our population ages, there are more people in that category. There are probably people out there who shouldn’t drive over 60 because their reaction time is too slow. It is not responsible to set the limit based on what the most competent drivers can handle. Better to set it for what the 30%ile can manage.

  • Porcell

    So, Joe, with the need for FAA approval and thermal imaging subject to search warrants, why would one object to the use of drones? Sure, be aware of potential abuse and come up with reasonable regulations, as has been the case with all new technology/methodology.

    Fingerprinting, which has now become routine, was once a controversial violation of privacy. DNA would be another example. Both of these are highly effective tools of law enforcement, though subject to abuse.

  • Porcell

    So, Joe, with the need for FAA approval and thermal imaging subject to search warrants, why would one object to the use of drones? Sure, be aware of potential abuse and come up with reasonable regulations, as has been the case with all new technology/methodology.

    Fingerprinting, which has now become routine, was once a controversial violation of privacy. DNA would be another example. Both of these are highly effective tools of law enforcement, though subject to abuse.

  • DonS

    Like anything else, it’s not the tool that is the problem, but the personnel using the tool. I can conceive of many positive uses for drones in law enforcement, including, as LAJ says above @ 4, border patrol. Routine patrol of public spaces, such as stadiums, transit stations, parks, and the like would be good as well, for the reasons we discussed on the thread yesterday concerning security.

    However, I can also see law enforcement using this particular tool in ways far in excess of their constitutional authority, such as routinely flying them over private backyards and adjacent to home windows, courtyards, and the like. This will bear watching, and appropriate action, if required, to preserve civil liberties when/if the tool is misused.

  • DonS

    Like anything else, it’s not the tool that is the problem, but the personnel using the tool. I can conceive of many positive uses for drones in law enforcement, including, as LAJ says above @ 4, border patrol. Routine patrol of public spaces, such as stadiums, transit stations, parks, and the like would be good as well, for the reasons we discussed on the thread yesterday concerning security.

    However, I can also see law enforcement using this particular tool in ways far in excess of their constitutional authority, such as routinely flying them over private backyards and adjacent to home windows, courtyards, and the like. This will bear watching, and appropriate action, if required, to preserve civil liberties when/if the tool is misused.

  • Cincinnatus

    I think sg raised the core issue @14: Mexico needs these drones and has implemented them in some locales precisely because it is a police state and needs to be a police state due to the near-total corruption afflicting both its government and its citizenry. There is no social trust in Mexico–that term couldn’t be more important here. Porcell, as you saying that America lacks the social trust necessary to uphold public realms without oppressive surveillance?

    This is yet another fulfillment of Benjamin Franklin’s apocryphal prophecy: to paraphrase, we’ll only have a republic as long as we can keep it. Some here seem to think we can’t. That may be true, but let’s not celebrate.

  • Cincinnatus

    I think sg raised the core issue @14: Mexico needs these drones and has implemented them in some locales precisely because it is a police state and needs to be a police state due to the near-total corruption afflicting both its government and its citizenry. There is no social trust in Mexico–that term couldn’t be more important here. Porcell, as you saying that America lacks the social trust necessary to uphold public realms without oppressive surveillance?

    This is yet another fulfillment of Benjamin Franklin’s apocryphal prophecy: to paraphrase, we’ll only have a republic as long as we can keep it. Some here seem to think we can’t. That may be true, but let’s not celebrate.

  • Cincinnatus

    In other words, Porcell, your near-flippant acceptance of these drones for local police use is tantamount to an implicit acceptance that we need these drones (otherwise, why bother?), and an acceptance of that fact is obviously an acceptance of a much more disturbing fact–that we’ve lost the capacity for self-governance.

  • Cincinnatus

    In other words, Porcell, your near-flippant acceptance of these drones for local police use is tantamount to an implicit acceptance that we need these drones (otherwise, why bother?), and an acceptance of that fact is obviously an acceptance of a much more disturbing fact–that we’ve lost the capacity for self-governance.

  • trotk

    DonS, some tools have very little redeeming value. I think it interesting that we rarely ask whether certain things should be made or used.

    Especially when it comes to using it on people.

    In fact, there are loads of tools that are a problem, and cannot ever hope to be used in a way that treats people as people. That is my problem with using these drones for internal surveillance. We would be treating the citizenry as ants to be managed by the distant bureaucracy/government (who is supposed to be us!) rather than as people.

    This tool cannot help but be dehumanizing. Thus, if we want to use it on non-humans (like counting caribou), I am all for it. But if you want to use it on people, it cannot be redeemed. It necessarily destroys liberty – the liberty to live my life without being observed by an institution for purposes that I have not approved.

    If you have to hope that a government bureaucracy will use the tool rightly, it shouldn’t have been made.

  • trotk

    DonS, some tools have very little redeeming value. I think it interesting that we rarely ask whether certain things should be made or used.

    Especially when it comes to using it on people.

    In fact, there are loads of tools that are a problem, and cannot ever hope to be used in a way that treats people as people. That is my problem with using these drones for internal surveillance. We would be treating the citizenry as ants to be managed by the distant bureaucracy/government (who is supposed to be us!) rather than as people.

    This tool cannot help but be dehumanizing. Thus, if we want to use it on non-humans (like counting caribou), I am all for it. But if you want to use it on people, it cannot be redeemed. It necessarily destroys liberty – the liberty to live my life without being observed by an institution for purposes that I have not approved.

    If you have to hope that a government bureaucracy will use the tool rightly, it shouldn’t have been made.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I’m thinking of all sorts of helpful things drones could do for us now as they make sure we’re minding our Ps and Qs. I think they should be equipped with vacuums and leaf blowers, and anti-graffiti systems to keep things tidy. All the while they can keep tabs on whether or not I shaved today.

    Let’s see, they could also trim trees around power lines; they could gather the garbage on Monday; they could babysit my children!

    Embrace the intrusion, people. I seek to be as at peace about all these things as Porcell.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I’m thinking of all sorts of helpful things drones could do for us now as they make sure we’re minding our Ps and Qs. I think they should be equipped with vacuums and leaf blowers, and anti-graffiti systems to keep things tidy. All the while they can keep tabs on whether or not I shaved today.

    Let’s see, they could also trim trees around power lines; they could gather the garbage on Monday; they could babysit my children!

    Embrace the intrusion, people. I seek to be as at peace about all these things as Porcell.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus: …and an acceptance of that fact is obviously an acceptance of a much more disturbing fact–that we’ve lost the capacity for self-governance….

    Self governance is an ideal that ignores the reality of fallen men.

    Just now, I’m about half-way through deJuvenal’s Sovereignty and have a better understanding of your view of the virtue of small, virtuous, self-governing communities, a fine ideal, though even de Juvenal understands that most of live in rather large communities full of law ignoring and breaking parties.

    One is hardly being “flippant” accepting with sufficient regulation drones as a law-enforcemrnt tool, unless, of course one hearkens after some imaginary virtuous small community, all of whose citizens have the necessary will to be “self governing.” Dream on.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus: …and an acceptance of that fact is obviously an acceptance of a much more disturbing fact–that we’ve lost the capacity for self-governance….

    Self governance is an ideal that ignores the reality of fallen men.

    Just now, I’m about half-way through deJuvenal’s Sovereignty and have a better understanding of your view of the virtue of small, virtuous, self-governing communities, a fine ideal, though even de Juvenal understands that most of live in rather large communities full of law ignoring and breaking parties.

    One is hardly being “flippant” accepting with sufficient regulation drones as a law-enforcemrnt tool, unless, of course one hearkens after some imaginary virtuous small community, all of whose citizens have the necessary will to be “self governing.” Dream on.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell: Perhaps I’m being nostalgic, but there presumably was a time in American history when individual self-governance (i.e., the possibility of republican government because the citizens could govern themselves) was not only an ideal but a reality. This was the point of Franklin’s statement, and it comes up over and over and over in the Federalist Papers and other founding-era documents. Democracies and republics are only possible if the citizens have the capacity to govern themselves: it is a tenet of political theory that is as old as political theory itself.

    So at least you’re honest: we’re on our way from being a democratic republic to being a police state because we (i.e., the citizen body) are no longer responsible or virtuous enough to maintain our own lives and our own public realms.

    And to an extent, I agree with you: you won’t catch me walking the streets of urban Milwaukee at midnight, and drones would make me feel safer there. Then again, urban Milwaukee–and whatever other communities feel the need to implement these drones–isn’t the model of a successful republic. I’ll also remind you that the advent of continuous surveillance is neither “reasonable” or pleasant. It’s a sad symptom of a sad time.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell: Perhaps I’m being nostalgic, but there presumably was a time in American history when individual self-governance (i.e., the possibility of republican government because the citizens could govern themselves) was not only an ideal but a reality. This was the point of Franklin’s statement, and it comes up over and over and over in the Federalist Papers and other founding-era documents. Democracies and republics are only possible if the citizens have the capacity to govern themselves: it is a tenet of political theory that is as old as political theory itself.

    So at least you’re honest: we’re on our way from being a democratic republic to being a police state because we (i.e., the citizen body) are no longer responsible or virtuous enough to maintain our own lives and our own public realms.

    And to an extent, I agree with you: you won’t catch me walking the streets of urban Milwaukee at midnight, and drones would make me feel safer there. Then again, urban Milwaukee–and whatever other communities feel the need to implement these drones–isn’t the model of a successful republic. I’ll also remind you that the advent of continuous surveillance is neither “reasonable” or pleasant. It’s a sad symptom of a sad time.

  • trotk

    I would argue that we will not be able to return to the small, self-governing community until the government relinquishes its grip on 90% of what it does. People simply don’t start changing their communities and holding one another accountable when they see that as the role of the law enforcement or government.

    This is one of the things that I mean by technology like this being de-humanizing. If it keeps people as pawns under the mercy of a central governing body, they won’t start acting as free individuals who choose the best things personally because it is better for the community, as a whole. Obviously this is a broad generalization, but history is full of examples of the fact that when governments grow, virtuous private governorship disappears, and the trend doesn’t reverse itself except for in extreme circumstances.

  • trotk

    I would argue that we will not be able to return to the small, self-governing community until the government relinquishes its grip on 90% of what it does. People simply don’t start changing their communities and holding one another accountable when they see that as the role of the law enforcement or government.

    This is one of the things that I mean by technology like this being de-humanizing. If it keeps people as pawns under the mercy of a central governing body, they won’t start acting as free individuals who choose the best things personally because it is better for the community, as a whole. Obviously this is a broad generalization, but history is full of examples of the fact that when governments grow, virtuous private governorship disappears, and the trend doesn’t reverse itself except for in extreme circumstances.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at 24, The reality is that most of us live in large communities with a criminal element that needs to be deterred by the police with the best tools available including drone aircraft.

    Perhaps the need for drones is a sad symptom of a sad time. Personally, my view is that we live in a great time with largely impressive material wealth and a growing renaissance of spiritual transformation.

    Virtuous Christian and Jewish people are in the long run guarantors of a good American society, though the reality is that we need to contend with the criminal elements among us with reasonable and effective means including that of drone aircraft.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at 24, The reality is that most of us live in large communities with a criminal element that needs to be deterred by the police with the best tools available including drone aircraft.

    Perhaps the need for drones is a sad symptom of a sad time. Personally, my view is that we live in a great time with largely impressive material wealth and a growing renaissance of spiritual transformation.

    Virtuous Christian and Jewish people are in the long run guarantors of a good American society, though the reality is that we need to contend with the criminal elements among us with reasonable and effective means including that of drone aircraft.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    ” there presumably was a time in American history when individual self-governance (i.e., the possibility of republican government because the citizens could govern themselves) was not only an ideal but a reality.”

    Yes, that really did exist. High trust societies aren’t just imaginary. They actually exist. However, they are built on at least a minimum consensus of unifying principles and identity. We don’t have that. We have polarizing ideologies in every sphere of public life. We have no basis for unity or trust.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    ” there presumably was a time in American history when individual self-governance (i.e., the possibility of republican government because the citizens could govern themselves) was not only an ideal but a reality.”

    Yes, that really did exist. High trust societies aren’t just imaginary. They actually exist. However, they are built on at least a minimum consensus of unifying principles and identity. We don’t have that. We have polarizing ideologies in every sphere of public life. We have no basis for unity or trust.

  • Cincinnatus

    trotk@25 and sg@27: Agreed, unfortunately.

  • Cincinnatus

    trotk@25 and sg@27: Agreed, unfortunately.

  • SKPeterson

    So an expensive new military technology will be available to local law enforcement – sounds like a great new special interest client boondoggle.

  • SKPeterson

    So an expensive new military technology will be available to local law enforcement – sounds like a great new special interest client boondoggle.

  • kerner

    I agree generally agree with trotk @25, but less so with sg@27. I think in days gone by what made Americans less dependent on government was primarily self reliance, not trust in our fellow man. When I was little, my dad expected that I would have to defend myself, and attempted to teach me how. Nowadays, teaching your children how to fight and that there is a time to do so is frowned upon to the point that defending himself will get a kid expelled from school.

    And hey, Cincinnatus. I live in Milwaukee, and I have walked some of its most urban streets without fear or incident. This is not to say that it isn’t wilder than it needs to be, but lets not get carried away.

    But more on topic, I think I agree with those who worry more about government abuse of this tool and think the benefits of it don’t outweigh to potential threats. Drug sniffing dogs sound like a good idea, but I recenly learned that many courts have ruled that the police can bring drug-dogs to the front door of any private home without probable cause or a warrant.

    The key term in 4th amendment jurisprudence is “reasonable expectation of privacy”. But this is a somewhat subjective term. The more we generally tolerate government surveillance, the less privacy we expect. Carried to extremes we may have almost no expectation of privacy left and the 4th amendment will have equally little meaning.

  • kerner

    I agree generally agree with trotk @25, but less so with sg@27. I think in days gone by what made Americans less dependent on government was primarily self reliance, not trust in our fellow man. When I was little, my dad expected that I would have to defend myself, and attempted to teach me how. Nowadays, teaching your children how to fight and that there is a time to do so is frowned upon to the point that defending himself will get a kid expelled from school.

    And hey, Cincinnatus. I live in Milwaukee, and I have walked some of its most urban streets without fear or incident. This is not to say that it isn’t wilder than it needs to be, but lets not get carried away.

    But more on topic, I think I agree with those who worry more about government abuse of this tool and think the benefits of it don’t outweigh to potential threats. Drug sniffing dogs sound like a good idea, but I recenly learned that many courts have ruled that the police can bring drug-dogs to the front door of any private home without probable cause or a warrant.

    The key term in 4th amendment jurisprudence is “reasonable expectation of privacy”. But this is a somewhat subjective term. The more we generally tolerate government surveillance, the less privacy we expect. Carried to extremes we may have almost no expectation of privacy left and the 4th amendment will have equally little meaning.

  • Robert W. McDowell, M.D.

    I’ve wondered about using drones as communications relay platforms for ambulances doing transfers of critically-ill patients from remote rural hospitals to tertiary care centers during “no-fly” weather times for helicopters. Sometimes having expert medical direction via radio can be life-saving. And in rural Vermont one is frequently in “dead spots”.

    I would assume that the weather constraints are less-stringent for drones than for manned helicopters.

  • Robert W. McDowell, M.D.

    I’ve wondered about using drones as communications relay platforms for ambulances doing transfers of critically-ill patients from remote rural hospitals to tertiary care centers during “no-fly” weather times for helicopters. Sometimes having expert medical direction via radio can be life-saving. And in rural Vermont one is frequently in “dead spots”.

    I would assume that the weather constraints are less-stringent for drones than for manned helicopters.

  • DonS

    Dr. McDowell, my son goes to school in rural Vermont. I know well what you are talking about. There is no reason, as you suggest, that a tool such as this cannot be put to good purposes beyond security/law enforcement.

    trotk @ 21: your statement “If you have to hope that a government bureaucracy will use the tool rightly, it shouldn’t have been made” is classically overbroad. All technology can be misused by an intrusive and overreaching government, so to avoid your fear we would be reduced to sticks and stones.

    If our government is overly intrusive to our individual liberties, the solution is to control government and reduce its scope, not to deny society the benefits of certain technologies.

  • DonS

    Dr. McDowell, my son goes to school in rural Vermont. I know well what you are talking about. There is no reason, as you suggest, that a tool such as this cannot be put to good purposes beyond security/law enforcement.

    trotk @ 21: your statement “If you have to hope that a government bureaucracy will use the tool rightly, it shouldn’t have been made” is classically overbroad. All technology can be misused by an intrusive and overreaching government, so to avoid your fear we would be reduced to sticks and stones.

    If our government is overly intrusive to our individual liberties, the solution is to control government and reduce its scope, not to deny society the benefits of certain technologies.


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