America is currently in a bit of a freaking out over domestic drones phase. The mostly ignoring the murderous effects of drones overseas, even in countries like Pakistan and Yemen with whom American is not technically at war — well, that bit has been happening for a while.
A perfect example of the disconnect between something being okay when used on alleged enemies but an utter outrage when used against Americans is the recent comments by conservative syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer on America's rapidly approaching future of drone-filled skies. This by the way, noted Slate, is near indeed:
On Monday, the FAA released new rules governing the use of surveillance drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles) by domestic public safety agencies, such as law enforcement and fire departments. Interested agencies can apply for expedited approval of drones weighing up to 25 pounds. The drones may not fly higher than 400 feet and must be in sight of an operator at all times. They also cannot fly near airports.
Krauthammer, who has a pretty high tolerance for American intervention overseas (and occasionally waves away congressional safeguards like the War Powers Act because to declare war properly is so archaic) went downright libertarian recently on the question of whether drones should be come a normal part of the skies, the horizon, and the purple mountains' majesty. Because dammit, war is war, but at home — Americans live there.
So Krauthammer went on Fox News this week and told Brett Baier:
I'm going to go hard left on you here, I'm going ACLU. I don't want regulations, I don't want restrictions, I want a ban on this. Drones are instruments of war. The Founders had a great aversion to any instruments of war, the use of the military inside even the United States. It didn't like standing armies, it has all kinds of statutes of using the army in the country.
To further lampshade the point, Krauthammer also said:
It ought to be used in Somalia, to hunt the bad guys, but not in America. I don't want to see it hovering over anybody's home.
Somalia! There's the third in the trifecta of countries that get drone-attacks, but no declarations of war.
Krauthammer went on to bemoan the fact that London has a terrifying amount of CCTV cameras and generally went on a bizarrely great (especially given his history) pro-privacy and pro-liberty rant. He also said he predicted "the first guy who uses a second amendment weapon to bring a drone down that's been hovering over his house will be a folk hero in this country." Though he was not "encouraging" that of course.
Krauthammer was part of a larger panel, and it was an interesting one, and in some ways it was a libertarian's dream to have mainstream voices talking so intensely about drawing lines in the sand when it comes to government. The Daily Caller's man in charge, Tucker Carlson, also spoke out strongly in favor of privacy and an across-the-board ban of domestic drone use, as well as his opposition to militarized police.
But there's still that fun-house quality of being all for freedoms and safeguards for Americans, but never mind these drones raining hellfire missiles from above upon people who live very far away indeed.
Friend of and contributor to Reason Andrew Napolitano also went on Fox News this week to talk drones. He, unsurprisingly, said that warrant-less surveillance of Americans is illegal. Napolitano also echoed Krauthammer's sentiments that the response to an American shooting down a drone would (and should) be an elevation to folk hero status (this is possibly giving Americans too much credit). Napolitano at least managed to drop a disparaging comment about the illegal war in Libya before he linked rhetorical arms with Krauthammer and said he was quite right to be nervous and outraged (I don't think the two of them often agree on things so that's rather cozy).
It's nice that Krauthammer is on the correct side of this, with his righteous and sensible paranoia. Even if, as Conor Friedersdorf pointed out, it's kind of horrific that to be opposed to incessant drones is to be "hard-left". Still, Krauthammer's thesis needs no digging or inference to find; To spy on Americans without cause is a monstrous violation. To kill foreigners without even an official declaration of war is merely the correct use of such a technology.
Meanwhile, a drone is credited with the December surveillance-gathering in Iraq that lead to Turkish air-strikes that killed 30 civilians.
Reason on drones