Watch the Skies Because Drones are Watching You

In the classic science fiction film The Thing from Another World (1951), there is a closing warning given to the audience by a reporter: “Tell the world. Tell this to everyone, wherever they are. Watch the skies everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies.” While he was warning about an alien invasion from space, it’s now a metaphor for what’s happening to us by our own government.

If you thought your privacy was being invaded by Homeland Security under the Bush administration when they started monitoring our phone conversations and e-mails, just look at what the current administration is doing under President Barack “Civil Liberties” Obama.

Since January, the Federal Aviation Administration has been authorizing local, state, and federal government entities to fly surveillance drones inside the U.S., and as of July, over a hundred have been authorized to do so already. Drone research, technology and production is a booming business right now in our sluggish economy. Government agencies like DARPA, university labs like the aptly named “SWARMS” (Scalable sWarms of Autonomous Robots and Mobile Sensors) and weapons manufacturers like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are developing so many types of drones, it seems they’ve got one for almost any occasion.

They’ve produced high-flying drones, low-flying drones, drones that will stay aloft at high altitude for days. They have a drone that flies as silently as an owl and one that is as small as a bird or even a bumblebee. They’ve even got one that’s designed after the maple seed, called the Samurai. They come equipped with a camera system for aerial and up-close footage, and some are weaponized for military use. The FAA estimates that in about 8 years, there will be around 30,000 surveillance drones flying above us. Yes, soon, Big Brother will always be watching us. Doesn’t that make you feel safe?

And that is the society in which our kids and grandkids will grow up. Our generation is for sure accustomed to seeing police cars everywhere “patrolling” the area or just lying in wait somewhere for some hapless creature to arrest or ticket. And we’ve all no doubt been through police “safety” checkpoints at one time or another which are becoming more and more common, where we have to give our ID, answer some random questions about where we’re going and why, be subjected to a breathalyzer test, have our cars and maybe our persons searched, etc. We’ve gotten used to seeing the “security” cameras at intersections and knowing that none of our e-mails and phone conversations are private anymore.

Perhaps we’ve also gotten used to being herded and probed like cattle at the airport. These measures are always about catching criminals or watching out for “suspicious behavior”. They’re just trying to protect us by preventing crimes from happening, and so the line of reasoning goes, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide.” And if you don’t consent to a search at some random checkpoint, then you must be hiding something.

Surveillance drone technology will completely obviate the need for or even the discussion of consent. Drones are going to be flying above us, buzzing around us or perched somewhere watching us whether we want them to or not. The Obama administration’s justification for them (or any other administration for that matter) will likely be the same as the Bush administration’s regarding “warrantless wiretaps”, intercepted e-mails and other relatively benign intrusions into our privacy:  they’re just trying to keep the homeland safe through the prevention of terrorist attacks. And the way you prevent terrorist attacks apparently is to monitor everybody’s electronic and cellular communications and keep track of only the people that use terrorist-related buzzwords . . . you know, like “tornado,” “sick” or “facility,” words that only a very specific and narrowly defined group of people might use. And we already know that you might be a domestic terrorist if you’re pro-life, for low taxes or critical of the federal government. Suffice it to say, we will again be reassured by whatever administration is in power that “if you’re not a terrorist, then you have nothing to be afraid of.”

(Ter-ror-ist [ter-er-ist] n. one who opposes U.S. government policies)

They are finding out and cataloging everything about us. They want to know about our personal and private communications, what we read, what we buy, what we search for on the internet, what we believe. And now, to top it all off, surveillance drones are already here, and will be watching over and keeping track of us to an even greater extent. But it’s all about security and preventing terrorist attacks, right? Won’t you feel safe knowing that the President’s administration will be keeping tabs on us and carrying out drone attacks on those here on U.S. soil that he deems to be “terrorists”?

Big Brother is watching.