June 8 2012: Amie Stepanovich and U.S. domestic drones

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Listen to entire program here (slightly truncated):

In the first half hour of the program I had a conversation about domestic drones in the US and the topic is certainly relevant in a border area like ours. U.S. drone policy is Canadian drone policy whether we like it or not and with a right wing law and order gang in Ottawa, we can expect that the government will be only too happy to help the US observe Canadian soil with drones as the Canada-U.S. Ship Rider Program is launched. (The ship-riding program empowers “U.S. vessels … to come into Canadian waters to perform enforcement duties, [and] similarly, Canadians can go into U.S. waters”). Of course security is couched in reasonable terms such as looking out for smugglers and other assorted bad guys and to be sure security is an issue at every border in the world. Whatever happened to the vaunted longest undefended border in the world? 9/11 changed all that and enemies are seen everywhere now.

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Perhaps we’re most familiar with hearing about military drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that issue is a separate and horrific story. However, in the U.S. the way has been cleared for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to operate domestically raising many questions about privacy and the increasing amount of surveillance in public places. According to a recent report by Electronic Privacy Information Center, “Since 2005, the [Federal Aviation Administration] has issued 78 certificates to commercial drones. The FAA has had to increase staffing in order to keep up with the mounting demand for government licenses. In late 2010, there were 273 active government licenses, nearly 100 more than the previous year. Reports in 2012 demonstrate that the FAA has issued more than 300 drone licenses. Only minimal information has been released on the nature and function of these drones.” Several agencies and the media in the U.S. are raising questions about domestic drones and to get an idea of what’s going on I spoke with Amie Stepanovich, Associate Litigation Counselor with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest research center in Washington, D.C.

In this clip Stepanovich describes the work of EPIC and provides a description of domestic drones:

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Stepanovich discussed whether domestic drones are really necessary. As well, the issue is not just government surveillance but that private uses of drones are a huge threat.  John Yoo, notorious for writing the legal reasoning allowing the Bush Administration to torture people said about drones: “I predict that private drones will prove a bigger invasion of privacy. I met an inventor a few months ago who showed me a drone that could be made for a few hundred dollars and controlled by an iPhone.The Constitution only limits what the state can do, not what private parties can do. And it is private parties who will be the principle users of domestic drones. I predict that these drones will be used mostly by suspicious spouses and parents, not to mention celebrity gawkers. So more important than worrying about whether the NYPD or DHS uses drones, are what rules our society will choose to govern and constrain the private use of drones. It may ultimately be difficult to control; as drone technology allows for smaller and cheaper drones, the government will have less and less ability to regulate them.”:

Here, Stepanovich outlines hopes the public will put the brakes on surveillance drones and mentions ongoing interventions with the Federal Aviation Administration:

Ten misconceptions of domestic drones

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