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Beware of the spy in the sky

Published June 16. 2012 09:01AM

Our government continues to seek new ways to infringe on our constitutional freedoms.

In a recent article, I mentioned that the NSA is monitoring our Internet activities, e-mails, and electronic communications. They are building a massive data center in Bluffdale, Utah to expand their capacity to violate our constitutional rights. This will be the largest data center in the world and has the ability to track and analyze all of our personal and business electronic correspondence and Internet activity.

Since We The People accepted this invasion of our privacy without a protest, the government is moving forward with the next phase in their plan to stomp on and destroy our rights to privacy.

The success of military drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan has given our government a new tool. I agree with the use of drones to seek out and destroy terrorist bases overseas. Now the administration is using them against American citizens here in the United States. By doing so, I believe they are violating our constitutional rights.

The government is using drones to spy on Americans as they go about their daily activities, oblivious to the "eyes in the skies" that are tracking their every move. The recent drone flights by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are the first openly reported use of drones used in the United States to surveil citizens without a warrant. (

The EPA used these unmanned aircraft to spy on farmers in Nebraska and Iowa looking for violations of the Clean Water Act. If in the course of looking for violations of the Clean Water Act images of interesting, suspicious or criminal activities were observed, the imagery could be turned over to other government agencies. There were no warrants issued for these drone flights under the guise that the EPA was just seeking to enforce existing legislation.

By using the Clean Water Act as their excuse to surveil American citizens, the government attempted to legitimatize the use of drones. Since there was no public outcry, the government continues to expand their use of drones. It is anticipated that federal, state and local governments will have a fleet of approximately 20,000 drones within several years.

The Air Force issued an instruction on the use of drones to spy on Americans in America. In Air Force Instruction 14-104 dated 23 April, 2012, the use of drones to spy on us is authorized and imagery collected can be scrutinized by law enforcement and other government departments. Again, the government is building a paper trail to legitimize the use of unconstitutional search methodologies in their quest to trample on our civil rights.

Judge Napolitano, Fox News legal contributor, has published several interesting articles relating to the use of drones to spy on unsuspecting Americans. He humorously stated that "The first American patriot that shoots down one of these drones that comes too close to his children in his backyard will be an American hero."

Contrary to the judge, I believe that a hapless American that shoots down or otherwise impedes a drone will end up in jail for treason, destruction of government property, or some other trumped up charge. (

This raises some interesting questions. If we notice a drone flying in circles over our property do we as citizens have any rights? What happens to the pictures taken by the drone? If my neighbor is sunbathing by their outdoor pool, can the pictures be released to the press? Will my unsuspecting neighbors be featured in Playboy magazine or some other publication? Could the pictures be released on the Internet for the entire world to view?

Based on recent events, our government can't keep military secrets from the press. Just this week the administration released classified information concerning top secret cyber attacks on Iran as well as other classified information. In their quest for votes will they show aerial photographs of Americans celebrating July 4 by overflying backyard barbecue pits, baseball fields and parks?

Congress has not approved the use of drones to spy on unsuspecting Americans. The courts have not issued warrants to authorize such surveillance. We will need several court cases involving evidence gathered by drones to determine if drone evidence can be used in court.

To get around potential roadblocks, I can see our government using drones to identify individuals involved in an activity. The FBI federal or state authorities can then "interview" the citizens to gather the required evidence. It will take a room full of lawyers and judges to determine whether evidence gathered from drones or from interviews after drone imagery has been interpreted, can be used to prosecute citizens.

I believe that drones can be a useful tool for law enforcement. I also believe that there are valid reason for using drones. If the court has issued a warrant for the use of the drone, then I believe our rights may be protected.

My concern is that the government has not applied for warrants to authorize drones. They are using little known legislation to create flimsy excuses to use these unmanned spy planes against American citizens. It is time our government stops sneaking around behind our backs and follows the rule of law.

If they have a valid reason to surveillance someone, then go to court and get a warrant. Otherwise, stop spying on unsuspecting American citizens.

© Gordon Smith - All rights Reserved

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