Where Is The Outrage Over the Domestic Use of Drones?

And where have all the Jeffersonians gone?

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For the past few weeks, I have been writing in this column about the government's use of drones and challenging their constitutionality on Fox News Channel where I work. I once asked on air what Thomas Jefferson would have done if–had drones existed at the time–King George III had sent drones to peer inside the bedroom windows of Monticello. I suspect that Jefferson and his household would have trained their muskets on the drones and taken them down. I offer this historical anachronism as a hypothetical only, not as one who is urging the use of violence against the government.

Nevertheless, what Jeffersonians are among us today? When drones take pictures of us on our private property and in our homes, and the government uses the photos as it wishes, what will we do about it? Jefferson understood that when the government assaults our privacy and dignity, it is the moral equivalent of violence against us. The folks who hear about this, who either laugh or groan, cannot find it humorous or boring that their every move will be monitored and photographed by the government.

Don't believe me that this is coming? The photos that the drones will take may be retained and used or even distributed to others in the government so long as the "recipient is reasonably perceived to have a specific, lawful governmental function" in requiring them. And for the first time since the Civil War, the federal government will deploy military personnel inside the United States and publicly acknowledge that it is deploying them "to collect information about U.S. persons."

It gets worse. If the military personnel see something of interest from a drone, they may apply to a military judge or "military commander" for permission to conduct a physical search of the private property that intrigues them. And, any "incidentally acquired information" can be retained or turned over to local law enforcement. What's next? Prosecutions before military tribunals in the U.S.?

The quoted phrases above are extracted from a now-public 30-page memorandum issued by President Obama's Secretary of the Air Force on April 23, 2012. The purpose of the memorandum is stated as "balancing…obtaining intelligence information…and protecting individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution…" Note the primacy of intelligence gathering over freedom protection, and note the peculiar use of the word "balancing."

When liberty and safety clash, do we really expect the government to balance those values? Of course not. The government cannot be trusted to restrain itself in the face of individual choices to pursue happiness. That's why we have a Constitution and a life-tenured judiciary: to protect the minority from the liberty-stealing impulses of the majority. And that's why the Air Force memo has its priorities reversed—intelligence gathering first, protecting freedom second—and the mechanism of reconciling the two—balancing them—constitutionally incorrect.

Everyone who works for the government swears to uphold the Constitution. It was written to define and restrain the government. According to the Declaration of Independence, the government's powers come from the consent of the governed. The government in America was not created by a powerful king reluctantly granting liberty to his subjects. It was created by free people willingly granting limited power to their government—and retaining that which they did not delegate.

The Declaration also defines our liberties as coming from our Creator, as integral to our humanity and as inseparable from us, unless we give them up by violating someone else's liberties. Hence the Jeffersonian and constitutional beef with the word "balancing" when it comes to government power versus individual liberty.

The Judeo-Christian and constitutionally mandated relationship between government power and individual liberty is not balance. It is bias–a bias in favor of liberty. All presumptions should favor the natural rights of individuals, not the delegated and seized powers of the government. Individual liberty, not government power, is the default position because persons are immortal and created in God's image, and governments are temporary and based on force.

Hence my outrage at the coming use of drones–some as small as golf balls–to watch us, to listen to us and to record us. Did you consent to the government having that power? Did you consent to the American military spying on Americans in America? I don't know a single person who has, but I know only a few who are complaining.

If we remain silent when our popularly elected government violates the laws it has sworn to uphold and steals the freedoms we elected it to protect, we will have only ourselves to blame when Big Brother is everywhere. Somehow, I doubt my father's generation fought the Nazis in World War II only to permit a totalitarian government to flourish here.

Is President Obama prepared to defend this? Is Gov. Romney prepared to challenge it? Are you prepared for its consequences?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. Judge Napolitano has written six books on the U.S. Constitution. The most recent is "It Is Dangerous To Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom."

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  1. Where Is The Outrage Over the Domestic Use of Drones?

    See also

    Where Is The Outrage Over the Extra-Judicial Killing of US Citizens?
    Where Is The Outrage Over the Kill List?
    Where Is The Outrage Over the War on Drugs?

    etc etc

    1. See also

      As long as you tell them that these things are being done to thwart some existential threat, not only will the people tolerate these things, they’ll welcome them. People are stupid that way.

      1. …not only will the people tolerate these things, they’ll welcome them.

        If you have nothing to hide, well, you know the drill. People have a funny way of thinking it will always be the other people who suffer, never them.

        1. Isn’t there any Iron Law or something about this?

          1. Of course.

            Me today, you tomorrow.

        2. First they came for the communists
          and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

          Then they came for the trade unioinists
          and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

          Then they came for the Jews
          and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

          Then they came for me
          and there was no one left to speak out for me.

          It’s time for We the Little People? ? [patent pending] to speak out. They’re coming for us.

        3. The feds are allocating money to law enforcement, “to serve and protect” huge blocks of money to SWAT team type gear. Not cars, not training and education, but armor, weapons, and spying devices. Yet violent crime which in tough economic times goes up, is spiraling ever downward.

          In defense of local police departments, if they want money for keeping officers empolyed, its hard to come by so they take what they can get.

          I’ve been around a long time. This shit has got to stop.

          The one time our military could have been a huge help to us here at home would have been Katrina. But no, we gotta stop those radical potsmokers.

          1. Yep. Law enforcement and military (or psuedo-military National Guard) because in my area our natguard camp has gone from a bunch of little log cabin type buildings to where it now looks like goddamn club med. I can’t even imagine how much money has been spent beefing up the place – and for what? We see blimps all over creation, we hear planes day and night but only in spurts. For two weeks we hear them constantly and then for a week or 10 days, nuthin’. With all that construction at the Guard camp and those aircraft overhead, what are they planning? In this area the nat guard used to be used only for local emergencies, and they had a 2 week war games thing in June every year, otherwise we barely knew it was in existence. Now – you can’t miss the place or their presence.

      2. And always have been. If there was any justice, Wilson would have been swinging from a lamppost.

        1. Just Wilson? I have a few names to add to that, Commander.

      3. Only if it’s their team in office. Once things switch, they’re up in arms for four to eight years.

    2. Sung to the tune of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”…

    3. Your question, sir, is clearly rhetorical. The answer is that all 0.5% of us are reading this article on reason.com right now.

  2. I still think Drone pilots are the biggest coweards of them all.

    http://www.Anon-Privacy.tk

    1. Yeah you said it JigDaFig!

      WOOO! USA USA USA…….

  3. Slip ‘terrorism’ in there somewhere and somehow everything the government wants to do is OK!

    1. “Terrorism” is the government’s equivalent of “Just the tip”.

      1. Actually, “just the tip” is more analogous to the TSA. Terrorism is more the equivalent of “we can just cuddle.”

        1. I like the way your mind works, and am interested in subscribing to your newsletter.

          Oh, and the check’s in the mail…

  4. Oh, and the check’s in the mail

    Did you make that out to “Hungus” with one “s”?

    1. This is why proper invoicing is vital.

  5. Somehow, I doubt my father’s generation fought the Nazis in World War II only to permit a totalitarian government to flourish here.

    Yeah well, it’s too late now. It’s here and there’s not much that can be done to stop it at this point. Sure, some people are still dumb enough to believe that they can vote out the power mongers but they apparently don’t realize that they’d just be replaced with another set. It very well may be at this point that the only way to fix this mess it to tear it down and start over.

    1. Then the Judge’s father’s generation shouldn’t have raised a generation of lazy, worthless, left-wing, liberty-hating shit bags.

      1. I also find it mildly humorous that people believe that after thousands of years of humans building governments this time we’ll get it right.

        1. I also find it mildly humorous that people believe that after thousands of years of humans building governments this time we’ll get it right.

          But they didn’t have the right people in charge.

          1. No “Top Men”?

        2. You gotta admit, this-time was started with some pretty radical concepts compared to the previous millenias’ attempts. I’d estimate a mere 50millenia till we finally find a satisfactory way to leave each other alone.

          1. I’d estimate a mere 50millenia till we finally find a satisfactory way to leave each other alone.

            The only way we’ll ever really leave each other alone is for each person to live on their own planet by themselves or otherwise have no contact with other people in any way. As long as people have contact with others there will always be an impulse to fuck with each other.

    1. God I hope that was a tongue in cheek video.

    2. That video is HORRIFYING. Even if tongue-in-cheek, it’s too uncomfortably accurate a reflection of the real-world to be “cute”.

      Kid’s pretty talented though.

    3. Maybe the terminator will get her in the sequel!

    4. This is obviuosly a joke. The real Obama campaign video was shot from a drone in Pakistan.

  6. ..distributed to others in the government so long as the “recipient is reasonably perceived to have a specific, lawful governmental function” in requiring them.

    So now that the 4th is beaten, bloodied, and bruised, we will finally put it to death by drone.

    1. I like that “reasonably perceived”. Translated, that means that no actual lawful government function is required, just a plausible cover story.

  7. ” Then the Judge’s father’s generation shouldn’t have raised a generation of lazy, worthless, left-wing, liberty-hating shit bags.”

    No, don’t let them off the hook. They voted for that douce LBJ over Goldwater by a huge margin. Their kids weren’t yet old enough to vote.
    Of course, since then…….

  8. This kind of invasion of privacy is the kind that civilians can partake in also, similar to license plate scanners. Within a decade or two, everyone will wear cameras providing a 360 degree view, 24×7 at least while in public, uploaded in real time to the cloud. Some will be public automatically. Apps will track people from one video to the next based on orientation and location.

    Someone mugs an old lady — her videos will be checked as soon as she screams for help, the culprit tagged, tracked, identified, and found, within minutes.

    I won’t like the loss of privacy, the idea that anyone can track me thru public videos to find out where I live, where I go, what I do. But nothing can prevent the future of ubiquitous videos.

    The rich and powerful have far more to lose from this than I do. People who are bored are more likely to watch the local cop, or Donald Trump, or anyone in Hollywood. My neighbors may be somewhat curious about me, but I don’t do much compared to Paris Hilton or Team Kardashian or the jerk at the bank.

    Politicians and cops will suffer the most as regards loss of privacy, and I think that tradeoff is worthwhile.

    Drones are just another small part of this. There will be private drones too, but all of them will take away very little privacy in comparison to ubiquitous personal webcams recording and uploading and publicizing everything 24×7.

    1. I don’t want to go to the expense and trouble of maintaining a 24/7 personal webcam. I have better things to do. The people in power who stand the most to lose from exposure of their activities will always be able to create and bend the rules to keep their dirty laundry hidden. It’s a fool’s bargain to believe that the bulk populace giving up their privacy will create more accountability for the elite.

      1. It will come in the form of necklaces or brooches. It will be so automatic and cheap that the only options will be the external appearance, to match it like every other fashion accessory.

        The rich and powerful will have no choice. Half the population will be uploading, to publicly accessible websites, everything around them everywhere they go. Think of it as facebook on steroids. People will record their entire life this way, and all those who get recorded in the process will be powerless to stop it.

        This is not something any of us have any control over, other than to not buy the webcams ourselves. If even 10% of the populace buys these things, we will all be traceable, and the paparazzi will make damned sure the rich and powerful are always recorded. Just like every other source of information, the more it spreads, the fewer people can avoid it.

        1. I know people who work in secure environments who are prohibited from bringing cameras into the office. As I said, those who are in power make the rules and will be able to control their exposure. The little people, not so much.

          1. I am talking in public: on sidewalks, in parks, restaurants, zoos. There will be cameras scanning license plates found in all these videos. I would not be surprised if three letter agencies already scan all license plates in all publicly accessible pictures, and that will come to individuals soon, with public databases of all such sightings.

            People who make the rules cannot outlaw public cameras or public uploads or public databases. Their only recourse will be dummy cars, massive decoy expenditures, and an almost complete withdrawal from public life.

            1. What if the those who don’t want to be recorded were to trademark their appearence? It’s my understanding that anyone who broadcast/uploaded images of someone whose appearence is trademarked would then be open to litigation. That seems like a good way for the rich and powerful to stop the little people from recording them.

    2. You think? OR people will begin to value their image and their privacy. They say NO to being secretly videoed and lawyers begin rubbing their greedy hands together. Some become quite wealthy suing for invasion of privacy. It becomes illegal and immoral to tape, photograph or record another human being without permission.

      Citizens rebel against the government and mysteriously traffic cams and drones begin to ‘disappear’. The government tries to replace them, but the cost is staggering, and they can’t keep up.

  9. The federal government or any level of government that cannot abide by the Constitution must be destroyed by force if necessary and its agents who persist in defending it must be killed or incapacitated (and made a visible and public Spectacle of, so as to provide a useful and effective deterrent for future would-be fascists).

    Violence is the only discourse that the State recognizes in the end, its the bottom line, it is the “inherent nature” of the State that all of its posturings at intellectual sparring and the concept of the rule of law being a contest decided by the argumentative process, with the victor able to sustain and protect his claims against his opponent, all boil down to Violence.

    Why? Because the State routinely abrogates the duty to conform to the rule of law, to strictly interpret statutes written in plain English, and to allow activist judges to become traitors to the Constitutional process of upholding the rule of law.

    And after they have committed these crimes, they persist in using Violence to enforce the tainted decisions and policies they make, becoming in the end nothing more than aggressive bullies who all deserve not even the barest respect of Life or Liberty; anyone who has engaged or furthered these crimes is a traitor , an aggressor, and a legitimate target for punishment.

    Kill the State, before it kills us.

  10. “I suspect that Jefferson and his household would have trained their muskets on the drones and taken them down. I offer this historical anachronism as a hypothetical only, not as one who is urging the use of violence against the government.”

    Judge Nepolitano, I do not encourage that behavior either, I think it would be a very bad idea. However, I have heard many express just such a desire, and I suspect the number of people who think like that is very large.

    I doubt there will be many drones shot down as they will probably fly so high as to be out of range for the typical sporting rifle. That concerns me greatly because I can easily imagine it creating a market for instruments to bring those critters into range.

    1. Napolitano…..I am so sorry. I didnt have my glasses on.

    2. “I do not encourage that behavior either . . . .”

      Napolitano is a public figure and he has to say that sort of weaseley thing, like the financial disclaimers you see at the bottom of a credit card ad. But you don’t, and neither do I. Why on earth do you think that shooting down these unconstitutional and wholly immoral drones would be “a very bad idea”? I think it’s an excellent idea, and endorse it whole-heartedly. Camera drones which can peep into your windows aren’t flying very high or fast (in fact, I imagine you could take out some with a tennis racket or a baseball bat), and even the ones spying on your yard generally aren’t very high up. A shotgun with birdshot should do the trick quite nicely, as long as you’re in a reasonably rural area (no danger to the neighbors) and you’re shooting on your own land. Only the predator drones fly so high you can’t see or hear them, and if one of those is after you you have bigger problems!

      And we need to start taking out the other types of street cameras, too (which wouldn’t even require any violence). Let the monkeywrenching begin!

      1. Because the majority of them will be private and probably engaged in land surveying, traffic and news info gathering, cattle tracking etc.
        Habitually shooting at them could lead to private small aircraft with persons aboard being shot at.
        The govt spy planes will be a small percentage and difficult to identify. Going after them would be more effectively done politically.

      2. And I might add, there is nothing weasely about being reasonable.

  11. “Nevertheless, what Jeffersonians are among us today?” – – Well, Your Honor, they are in jail and prison is where they are, else too afraid to end up there to do anything about it.

  12. You know, Judge Napolitano – I’ve been outraged about the Drones from the moment I heard about them. I believe so many Americans are dumbed-down, that they are not even familiar with the word “Drone.” I am an old-timer, but I maintain active participation in politics awareness – particularly when it comes to the Powers That Be.
    I’ve read that not only are they the size of golf balls, but they’ve also got one that closely resembles a hummingbird, and another that is shaped like a leaf – and both contain video audio sensors for “data gathering.” Such a typically government-esque term to apply: “data gathering.” I also read that the FAA was pretty up in arms about the potentials of drone usage – they voiced concerns over conceivable encounters with airplanes and paths of traffic because the drones don’t have to file flight plans. What kind of deal is that??! If they’re flying amidst legitimate air traffic, they should have to file flight plans, but then the word would get out as to where they’re going, and they can’t have that, now.
    Guess I’m going to reluctantly have to remove the Ron Paul stickers from all four sides of my car … I read in the not-too-distant-past that “anyone with Ron Paul bumper stickers is to be considered a terrorist by the government.” I wouldn’t want to be rousted in the middle of the night for supporting; campaigning for; and believing in, a fine and noble gentleman who is the “Champion of The Constitution”. What a heinous crime!

  13. Don’t believe me that this is coming? The photos that the drones will take may be retained and used or even distributed to others in the government so long as the “recipient is reasonably perceived to have a specific, lawful governmental function” in requiring them. And for the first time since the Civil War, the federal government will deploy military personnel inside the United States and publicly acknowledge that it is deploying them “to collect information about U.S. persons.”

  14. Dear Judge, We need to have a Police Tribunal in each state, with three Judges on the side of the cops, and three against, ties decided by a (truly) random, pick someone off the street lottery. The police need to be accountable to the citizens of their State, starting now.

  15. Drone attacks are in a sense an attack on all of Mankind. See my reports on this topic.

    http://www.indymedia.org/de/2012/06/957265.shtml

    Drones Directed Energy Assaults are used for two purposes:
    1)mass murder
    2) kill the will of man.

    Understand that the wholesale killing and torturing of people globally by
    the fbi/cia/pentagon, and their operatives is executed by any means
    available, including Drones, Directed Energy Weaponry, High Tech Chemical
    Biological Assaults.

    The killers of this nation understand that mass murder
    is not enough to stop the adversaries; one must also break the will of man
    to defend his own country, his own life ( that of his family) and his own
    sanity. Total psychological surrender is required. Torture and the threat
    of torture are the new weaponry used by the United States Of America in
    order to once and for all control all mankind and all nations. The USA’s
    own combat veterans and patriots are also subject to the deadly assaults
    and torture. For more on torture see:

    http://www.boell.org/downloads…..orture.pdf

  16. Couple of things that address the question. First off, I know drones. Many of my best friends are drones. I don’t know a single drone that’s decided to take a picture through anybody’s window.

    I’m pretty sure that the problem actually has to do with abuse of power – by humans. In that light, Judge Napolitano’s relentless support of Ron Paul is much appreciated. IF Romney’s the Republican nominee, then we’re probably going to have more pictures taken through people’s windows for years to come.

    Don’t blame the drones.

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