Missouri Anti-Drone Bill Lacks Teeth

Drone Strike Coming to a City Near You!

Drone Strike Coming to a City Near You!

Zachary Cole


February 8, 2013

Like so much legislation being proposed or passed lately we see the gravitation towards “safe” language within these bills. Just take for example the so-called “anti-NDAA” legislation, HB 57, initially we wrote that it would certainly outlaw indefinite detention of Missouri citizens. In a matter of a week or two, P.A.N.D.A., one of the largest organizations against the NDAA spoke out against it saying that the bill was nothing more than “fluff”. What was their reason for saying such a thing? As Heather Cottner, the Missouri State Coordinator for P.A.N.D.A., explained that the organization’s legal team reviewed the language within the bill and determined that any shrewd politician or lawyer could easily get around what the legislation claims to be outlawing.

This controversy provides the context in how one should view legislation being presented at the local level. With that being said, we should be circumspect about Rep. Casey Guernsey’s HB 46 “Preserving Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act”. In a nutshell his bill only outlaws “unwarranted” spying from any person or State Department and in no way protects citizens from law enforcement. A couple of things come to mind when I read this bill:

  • It only seems to outlaw the use of drones against citizens without authorization by a magistrate. In other words, Federal agencies and local police can still use drones against the public as long as they and the magistrate believe there is a just cause. The language in this bill does nothing to protect the citizens from other potential actions that various UAVs are capable of. Furthermore, regarding warrants, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have drastically expanded upon what is deemed as “suspicious activity” thus giving them just cause to target almost anyone for the slightest infraction. Another aspect that should be pondered is that many judges these days don’t resist much when it comes to warrants. Unfortunately, unless it’s something bizarre, the judge will usually side with Feds or the police and issue the authorization.
  • This bill could also be used to justify the outlawing of drones for private use amongst hobbyists and farmers. The main reason why this option could be on the table in the future is a simple fact that the Federal agencies and local police have to have warrants to use them. This could lead to the line of thought “if the government needs permission, why not the people?” They could easily create a registry for private UAV owners and like gun registration; the state could regulate who doesn’t get to operate drones according to whatever vague standard they put in place. All the government needs is a few extreme examples of citizens improperly using their drone and legislation or an amendment could be made to restrict or outlaw them all together for the public. Presently, the FAA has little regulation on private use of drones, as long as the UAV is flying under “400 feet”, maintains a “pilot in control”, and stays away from “built up areas”.
  • HB 46 creates penalties for illegal UAV usage by Federal agencies and law enforcement. It also makes any evidence obtained illegally inadmissible in court while making it easier to file a lawsuit against violators. Initially it sounds great but my concern would be the lack of provision if the tables were turned and a privately owned drone accidentally violated a law that was originally for the Feds and police. In my opinion if one is going to create a bill, they must give some forethought as to how the language could be utilized by politicians (with less than innocent motives) beyond the original intent. Basically critically look at you own legislation and see if there are any dangerous loopholes.

Clearly Rep. Guernsey believes HB 46 solves the problem of illegal use of drones by big brother. It is apparent by a recent statement when he said, “Without legislation, Missouri could become a police state with overt surveillance as drone technology becomes cheaper.” The Representative sounds great on the surface but again I believe this is another bill that has little protection due to its language and omission of other important issues surrounding drone technology.

Gary Brunk, local executive director for the ACLU, seems to think that the bill is sufficient. He said, “As drones become less expensive, our fear is that the police and other agencies could use them or fishing expeditions that infringe on an individual’s right to privacy…This bill is simply common sense regulation.” As Mr. Brunk’s statement reveals the main focus of the organization on the issue of drones is privacy. A question I would ask is why not work with politicians on the state and Federal levels to create a comprehensive bill that addresses all the issues that apply to drones. Why can’t we have “common sense” laws against using weaponized UAVs for American citizens?

Maybe their angle is to slowly implement these measures throughout several bills so that these issues can be addressed individually so the establishment doesn’t feel threatened. Hopefully this is not one of those deals where lawmakers throw out a bone to satiate activists so they will shut their mouths. If Rep. Guernsey’s motives are pure, then he should consider several options: 1) Tightening up the language in the bill; 2) Amending problematic sections within the bill; or 3) Create new bill altogether that addresses in a more complete manner the potential civil rights violations from the utilization of drones by the state.

I think that it is imperative that Guernsey finishes the job he started and either shores up the current bill he has put forth or scrap HB 46. Regardless of what option is chosen, it should take a tougher stance against drones. The reader may wonder why citizens should not be restricted from using private UAVs, while Federal agencies and police departments should have more regulations in their utilization. The answer is simple; most private citizens that own drones have them for a hobby or are employed for agricultural or environmental tasks. Whereas, the government owns them to further their surveillance grid and create an atmosphere of fear as a method of control. The state’s use of drones is nothing more than aggression while the public’s use is amicable. See the difference?


Drone Technology Reaches Another Milestone

Drone Infographic

Zachary Cole


February 5, 2013

In Greek mythology there was a giant monster with 100 eyes all over his body named Argos Panoptes. Incredibly, according to the myth, he was a watchman that never slept and guarded Zeus’ lover who had been changed into a white heifer. Although this story is not real, it does serve as a backdrop to a new DARPA funded project.

Yiannis Antoniades of BAE Systems has developed for the Pentagon a highly classified 1.8 billion megapixel camera that can be mounted on drones. Its name is ARGUS-IS, which is an acronym for Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System. Like its mythological counterpart from whom it was named after, this camera is like a watchman that never sleeps.

The ARGUS-IS, depending on what type of UAV it’s attached to, will be able to be in the sky for nearly 24 hours at about 17,500 feet. The camera will also be able to cover 15 mi.² per pixel but BAE Systems indicate coverage of 100 mi.². Built within this system is 1,000,000 TB hard-drive that records everything in high-resolution. This allows the drone to feed live video back to its command station with the ability to zoom in on any area they please.

Another feature of the ARGUS-IS is the capability to open 65 independent video windows that can zoom in and out on a specific image by the touch of a finger. It can track automatically vehicles and an equally terrifying feature is the “dismount tracking” which can follow individuals on foot. The processing and cognitive swarm-recognition software will also allow the drone to identify the target before it becomes a threat. DARPA is already developing this technology to detect the prelaunch of rocket propelled grenades.

This system sounds very similar to the AISight software by BRS Labs that scans the public for “suspicious” behavior in pre-crime detection. It also has the ability to learn while observing large crowds of people and send text messages to guards if threats are spotted. The reader should note that these technologies are not being beta tested over foreign skies; rather they are in our skies and on our streets.

Let’s just put the pieces together. The proliferation of drones to kill enemy combatants in foreign countries years ago was nearly looked upon as a conspiracy theory. Now during the Obama administration it is a fact and a preferred method of war. It is also a reality that although the UAV’s are effective in killing specified targets, they are also notorious for terminating innocent children. Just last year Pres. Obama signed the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act of 2012, which allows within 90 days of its signing, the permission for police departments across America to utilize drones on a daily basis. It also mandates that the FAA reevaluate its regulations by September 30, 2015 to allow private companies to also fly UAV’s. The FAA also estimates due to the bill HR 658, that by 2020 there will be 30,000 drones in the skies of the United States.

I mentioned all the above to say that this is the natural progression of an oppressive regime. They take advantage of a crisis to gain more power and to secure its future. Then it turns on the people that gave the system its supremacy by incrementally locking down their freedoms. Simultaneously they implement secretive plans while denying its existence, only later to confirm the rumors. As the public becomes acclimated, the regime openly unveils what it has been doing in the shadows for years. Then the system is given the green light to promote the idea of using the once secretive program within its own territory to secure its people’s safety. Insiders then begin creating the legal parameters the regime needs to roll out the final plan. Once the citizenry has been surrounded by a wall of legislation then the system will have gained full control of its population.

My point in painting that picture was to show the reader that this technology from the beginning was going to be used to create a Big Brother surveillance grid here in the United States. I wrote earlier that drones could zero in on specific enemies but more often than not there is collateral damage. Now when we apply it to US soil, employ predator drones, equip them with high-tech cameras that have pre-crime software, authorize its use for law enforcement, legalize its existence with legislation while expanding the definition of what a terrorist is, one can easily see how America could become a battlefield in the near future.

If ARGUS-IS lives up to its mythological namesake, we very well could be dealing with a real life monster that never sleeps and always sees. The good news is if real life follows closely to the myth, the monster is destroyed (although I wouldn’t hold my breath on this point).

See Video of the ARGUS-IS in action!