Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Killer Domestic Drones, Did Rand Paul Change His Mind?

There is a bit of a debate about the use of drones to kill people.  Over the last ten years, the use of drones has increased, and the technology has moved forward.

Basically, a drone is a remote controlled airplane.  I guess the actual definition continually varies, but to me it means an airplane with a video camera in it that relays the view back to a remote operator.  Apparently the real definition of drones includes non-human non-remote computer controlled aircraft, but I think that is an entirely different thing.  For me, the key thing about drones is that they are using human intelligence.  The controversial use of drones is to assassinate suspected terrorists with missiles fired from the drone, which results in a lot of collateral damage (i.e. probably innocent people killed or maimed in the strikes.)

Recently, the US administration announced that they would expand the use of drones to Americans as well as foreigners, which resulted in a great outcry. Then it was announced that absolutely no Americans would be killed in America.  This targeting of Americans would only be if these people holding American citizenship were overseas engaged in anti-American terrorist plots (or suspected of doing so).

But now we come back to America.  Rand Paul, the libertarian politician and son of Ron Paul, filibustered the use of drones in America. But  after the Boston Marathon bombings, Rand Paul backed down and said that he never opposed using drones in an immediately threatening situation, for example a person coming out of a liquor store, after committing a robbery,  with a gun and fifty dollars.

The Young Turks (Cenk Uygur rant about Rand Paul's about face)

Rand Paul (Before Boston bombings)
“No American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court,” 

Rand Paul (after)
“If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and $50 in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him,” 

A political blogger commenting on Rand Paul

How can we ever have an intelligent debate about topics like this when people appear to be willing to shift their position dramatically depending on how they feel on a given day?  I believe this is a dramatic shift in position, although many right wing conservatives do not think it is.  Apparently, for right wingers, it was so obvious drones would and should be used for killing bad guys, that they forgot to mention it.  They are only opposed to drones flying over their outdoor hot tubs.

More questions: Since when is somebody carrying a gun fair game in the USA?  I thought there was this thing about "the right to bear arms"?  I am probably missing something, but when this person comes out of the liquor store with a gun and fifty dollars, how do you know that he committed the crime?  And is he (she) really an immediate threat?  Wouldn't that depend on what kind of gun they were carrying, on where they were pointing it, on whether it was loaded, or if maybe it was a toy gun?  I'm thinking that a person coming out of the liquor store with a gun and $50 is relatively harmless unless you try to stop them.

A domestic police drone would probably not be equipped with Hellfire missiles.  At least I hope not.  Some possible weapons a domestic drone could be equipped with would be smaller guns, rubber bullets, tear gas, a taser, paintball bullets, maybe a net?   A domestic drone only needs to detain, slow down, or track an individual.  A foreign drone  kills mainly because it operates without human police assistance.

Being a Canadian, I don't really understand the USA, but I remember back in the early nineties, in Panama City Beach, Florida, seeing a sign "Drive Thru Liquor and Machine Gun Rental".  Assuming I went in there and rented a machine gun, then the person behind me in line pulled a robbery, I could be killed by a drone on my way out. (according to Rand Paul's scenario.)

Picture: Huffington Post comments on drones replacing police helicopters


  1. And, so, Rand Paul finds himself caught between the libertarian rock and a 'law and order' hard place.

    Although there is no generally agreed definition of 'police state,' most analysts will stipulate that its central characteristic is that of excessive application of 'police powers' to regulate society - generally in favour of its most moneyed and powerful interests.

    The 2000 U.S. federal census tabulated something approaching 1,000,000 police (i.e. full-time sworn) personnel in the U.S. and current estimates of overall annual U.S. policing costs U.S. are now well in excess of $100,000,000,000.00. (And that excludes the growing number of 'private' police personnel, which now number in the hundreds of thousands.)

    The issue of drones is simply a small part of a much larger question of increasingly expensive, less efficient and misguided policing strategies.

    Certainly, organizations such as the ACLU are quite properly concerned about circumvention of due process, erosion of civil liberties and privacy rights.

    But, much as building more roads will not solve the congestion problem, increasing police capability will not solve the social problem - including crime rates and such abstruse manifestations such as domestic terrorism. It is simply an attempt to treat the symptom, rather than the problem.

    The root problem is growing wealth inequality and social injustice. The cops are mandated to keep a lid on the garbage can, while the fermentation inside continues and the pressure builds. One need look no further than the excessively violent repression of the 'Occupy' protesters (or in Canada, the G20 'arrests' and police assaults).

    But it's much more convenient to debate drones than to step up to the real issue ...

    1. That's a good video. More dramatic than just a bunch of dull pie charts and numbers.

    2. There was a revealing report out from Pew Research a couple of days ago ...

      A Rise in Wealth for the Wealthy; Declines for the Lower 93%
      'From the end of the recession in 2009 through 2011 (the last year for which Census Bureau wealth data are available), the 8 million households in the U.S. with a net worth above $836,033 saw their aggregate wealth rise by an estimated $5.6 trillion, while the 111 million households with a net worth at or below that level saw their aggregate wealth decline by an estimated $0.6 trillion'