Congress: Yea! Drones at Home!…Hold it!…Wait!…


So let’s get this straight:

The U.S. military consistently developed drones in the 1990s for surveillance and killing. The issue really came to the fore over the past year with CIA secret drone attacks in the Middle East, including the targeted killings of three U.S. citizens.

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In February, Congress quickly approved and President Obama signed a new law allowing domestic drone flights.

This summer, a group of University of Texas graduate students hacked into a government domestic drone using only $1,000 worth of equipment.

In June, a U.S. Navy drone crashed in Maryland.

Then this week, as a man pleaded guilty to a planned model-plane attack on Washington, Congress finally held a hearing on domestic drones, with some Congress members even expressing alarm at the problems they could cause.

Pass and sign a bill in February. Question your actions in July. Now do you wonder why Congress’s approval ratings linger from 12 to 22 percent?

So what did the bipartisan group of lawmakers learn at last Thursday’s hearing in Washington? For one thing, the vast federal agency created specifically to keep America’s shores safe doesn’t want to get involved. At the hearing, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee, said Department of Homeland Security officials refused to testify because regulating civilian use of drones wasn’t the department’s responsibility.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration estimates 10,000 drones will be filling America’s skies within five years. Police agencies already are utilizing drones, and private industry is expected to grow the effort even further.

“Industry experts predict the takeoff of a multi-billion dollar market for civilian drones as soon as the FAA completes regulations to make sure they don’t pose a safety hazard to other aircraft. But the agency’s focus and expertise is safety, not security or privacy,” Joan Lowy wrote in her Associated Press article covering the Congressional hearing.

Privacy concerns came up during the hearing, but evidently no answers to those concerns. Looks like that may be left to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Still, a huge artistic positive could come out of all this. Can’t you see “Drones over America” as the title for everything from individual paintings and sculptures to art exhibitions to a Hollywood blockbuster?