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Behold the third column under “The War at Home” banner. It is about how drones are very scary, but also maybe we shouldn’t just flail and ban them as fast as possible.

As the weekly – sometimes daily – news stories never tire of telling us, domestic drones are coming. And as ABC News reported on March 17, they are arriving faster than the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can suss out the rules over their use. Though it’s technically illegal, and the FAA may issue fines if they catch you, ABC reports that commercial use of drones is starting to happen whether or not the government approves – as long as it doesn’t notice.

In February, the FAA sent a cease and desist letter to the Lakemaid Brewing Company – the beer makers may not use drones to send ice fishermen a six-pack of cold ones. Even for such a charming purpose, their commercial use is banned at least until 2015, when the FAA will issue rules on drone integration into U.S. airspace. The FAA is also currently appealing a judge’s decision rejecting the $10,000 fine it tried to levy against a Virginia filmmaker for unauthorized drone flights. At this point, the US is actually trailing far behind the rest of the world in terms of domestic drones – we’re skittish about their dystopian potential, and our privacy laws are (relatively) strong compared to some.

The rest here

401977_820298143983_859526031_nBelow is the second edition of “The War at Home” column. I tried to cram in a hasty lesson on the whys and the dangers of the militarized police in America.

Antiwar commenters are often yelling at me for being for open borders or for referring to Chelsea Manning as Chelsea Manning, but they may have a point about my final paragraph being misleading. Noted, commenters. Thanks for the lesson.

(I also should have headlined it “The Blurred Line Between Soldiers and Cops” because that so obviously sounds better. Ugh.)

Nevertheless, do check it out:

In a March 10 USA Today piece, Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) expressed his desire to introduce legislation that would place limits on the Pentagon’s 1033 program which is used to supply police departments with gear that was once used on the streets of Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a long overdue “official” recognition that something terrible has happened to police departments in the US. Whether Johnson’s plan has a chance of getting anywhere remains to be seen. Because there are numerous firmly-stuck perverse incentives that lead to the state of policing today and which perpetuate it.

People who casually notice the more military-like qualities of American police would be forgiven for assuming their tactics, weapons, and menacing appearance are a result of post-9/11 fear. Though September 11 and subsequent scares and some real incidents such as the Boston Bombing have aggravated this problem – and there is a similar equipment grant program that comes from the Department of Homeland Security that Rep. Johnson should check on – the catalyst for our mutant police is narcotics prohibition.

Ronald Reagan’s literal drug war began in 1981 with the passage of the Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Statute (10 USC 371-380). More loosened restrictions followed that allowed domestic assistance by the military to police in certain (usually drug) cases. It also set up a system where police departments could receive equipment through grants from the federal government. This lead to bizarre commando-style drug raids that sometimes included military helicopters, and even U-2 spy planes. (The flimsy accusation that the Branch Davidian sect had a meth lab was even the excuse for the presence of the Bradley Fighting Vehicles and other military hardware during the disastrous 1993 standoff outside Waco, TX.)

Richard Nixon had declared a “war on drugs” in 1971 and pushed some bad policies – including a DC “no-knock raids” law – with limited success. But the conflict became the monster we see today under Reagan. Those years rocketed the US’s prison population to its current inhumane level of more than 2 million people, and they lead to the normalization of camo-clad cops kicking in doors over reports of weed or other drugs. The spike in crime in the 1990s cemented this supposed need for eternally tough on crime measures from police and politicians. Policies such as mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders made it clear this was was a serious enough issue to warrant life in prison for repeat, nonviolent drug dealers.

The rest over here

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Here is the very first edition of my new Antiwar.com column, “The War at Home.” In the column I intend to write about drones, propaganda, police, feds, spying, and anything else that makes sense under that domestic-leaning banner.

First off, a plea for caution about still more militarization of the border. Border advocates should reconsider how comfortable they are with drone fleets and scores of thousands of Border Patrol officers. So should the folks who are so keen on amnesty. They may accept some bad legislation that makes that problem worse.

For months, Senate Bill 744 – which would reform immigration and make citizenship possible for some of the 11 million individuals living illegally in the U.S. – has been stuck in the House. Generally, Republicans think it is too soft. Democrats have pushed and compromised. But the bill is bad. Not because granting amnesty is bad, but because the border issue is already intruding into the lives of average Americans as well as migrant workers. The last thing we need is more money and more high-tech toys spent in the name of paranoia over “security.”

This bill increases all sorts of things of which we already have too many. Back in 1992, there were less than 5,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents. As of 2013, there were 21,000. S.B. 744 increases the number of Border Patrol agents to 38,000, mandates building enough fencing to cover 700 miles, and includes a strategy to make the border secure at last. All this at the low, low cost of 46 billion dollars. And all for “security” and for a projected 90 percent success rate in catching immigrants who mostly just wish to work and better their lives and the lives of their families.

Like all government agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will never decide on its own that it’s funded enough. It will keep keeping on in order to feed and justify itself and keep growing at a “reasonable” rate. But when will the border be sufficiently militarized? When there are 50 drones instead of the current 10, which occasionally crash? Small government advocates – or anyone skittish about open borders – should consider the inevitably of mission creep in all government endeavors – particularly the militaristic type. And pro immigrant-activists must seriously consider how much amnesty is worth, and whether they’re willing to trade it for a border that even more closely resembles a Maginot Line. The question of what to do with the areas between the U.S. and its neighbors affects both lawless migrants and legal U.S. citizens.

There’s a long line of legal precedent that says the borders don’t count in terms of Fourth Amendment protections. Though the drug war and the war on terror have cut many privacy protections off at the knees, they were always more ephemeral at the border. There a search simply has to be “reasonable.” And though the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) gets awfully intimate in airports, mild groping still pales in comparison to how close some Border Patrol agents can get to your private parts while searching for illicit items. Back in 1985, United States vs. Montoya de Hernandez confirmed the Border Patrol’s right to detain you until you defecate if they have a reasonable suspicion that you might be carrying drugs and you refuse an X-ray. More recently, a New Mexico resident who crossed the border near Ciudad Juarez was taken to the hospital and subjected to a cavity search and a CAT scan after she was suspected of drug smuggling.

The rest here.