Many Americans are justifiably anxious about drone use by the federal government against the American people, but the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations says that concerns about citizen privacy are overblown. “While many are understandably anxious about the seemingly inevitable expansion of drones across the United States, I argue that many fears are either overblown or based on misperceptions,” wrote Micah Zenko on the Council on Foreign Relations website June 21.
Zenko counsels that fears about armed drones in the United States are meritless: “Although variants of the Predator can be equipped to missiles, CBP drones will not bomb U.S. citizens.” Although there are already some 64 Department of Defense drone bases located within the continental United States, there haven't yet been any cases of attacks within the United States. But like the Bush administration that preceded it, the Obama administration has classified the “war on terror” as a global war that includes land within the territorial United States. Moreover, some local police forces have already taken steps to arm their drones with non-lethal weapons — such as tear gas and stun weapons — for crowd control.
Zenko points the finger away from drones as a cause for fear. “Of greater concern are mobile Blackhawks, which are vastly more capable than their Predator cousins.” Zenko wrote in a related article in Foreign Policy magazine. “Surveillance drones offer the CBP a number of advantages over manned aircraft, such as longer mission duration over remote areas, while providing near real-time imagery via video cameras and thermal infrared and synthetic aperture radars.” But drones also don't have the on-the-scene personal decision-making ability that a live pilot has. Moreover, for a drone “pilot,” there's more of a sense of playing a video game than using real violence.
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