There is a movement under way in this country called unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called drones. Some are very large, some tiny, and some can fly sideways and backwards. Some can operate from miles up, some can hang motionless, and all can silently survey all that is going on around them. At this time there are nine drones in the 2,000-mile area along the border between the United States and Mexico. They are looking for smugglers and illegal immigrants crossing into our country. These killer drones are piloted by operators who are locked up in computer rooms in Air Force bases. We can now kill from miles away.
Does all of this make you feel safer? How long will it be before other countries and even companies have this kind of technology? Who is going to monitor them? Who is going to keep us safe? What will this do to our image? Are we still the "good guys" on the white horses, or are we now the "bad guys" on the black horses?
Both parties are guilty of using them. President Bush and Dick Cheney started using them, and now President Obama and Congress are using them even more. Have you ever seen a vote or a debate on the use of drones? I haven't and neither has anyone else because there has been none. The use of drones in our country has drastically increased since 2005.
Do you know who is cheering on the use of drones? Many corporate executives and lobbyists, many money-hungry universities, and most of the local law enforcement officials. It's going to become a multi-billion dollar industry, with more jobs and a shot in the arm for the economy. At what price, though? I remember when we were poor, but we felt safe. We were a happy people! Will we constantly be at a drone war now? Will we ever feel safe again? I'm glad I'm as old as I am, but those of you who will have to deal with this problem had better speak up now! We may become a society under routine, pervasive surveillance. It will change the character of our public life and our image, to ourselves and to the world. I'm glad I'm not traveling anymore. It would hurt my pride to see our image destroyed.
Now pay attention. The goal of those pushing to have the ability to operate freely and routinely in our national airspace is to have 30,000 drones in the air by 2020. At present our country's entire commercial fleet of passenger and cargo planes is about 7,000. As of last June the Pentagon alone had 64 drone bases already and expected to have 22 more. At the present time police departments in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Texas, Utah and Washington state are flying drones. I'm thankful New York state is not on that list!
We can have a watched society constantly monitored by flying cameras that are also weaponized with tasers, tear gas, rubber bullets and going so far as using real bullets and explosives!
Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer and writer, had this to say: "The potential for abuse is vast. And simply creepy."
The good news is that there are Republicans and Democrats both watching and protesting. Fox communicator Charles Krauthammer said, " I don't want restrictions on drones - I want a ban."
I can see how this whole issue can get out of control and lives will be lost! Certainly our privacy will be lost! Our freedom of speech can be lost!
You're probably asking yourself, "Where does she get all this information?" The answer is that it came in the February edition of The Hightower Lowdown, a newsletter. For more information on it, visit www.hightowerlowdown.org.
Margaret Valone is a Fredonia resident. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org