By: Karla Fetrow
Do you remember watching the 2008 “Get Smart” movie, that rollicking comedy about a bumbling agent and his much sexier, far more competent partner? In the opening scene, Agent 23 smashes a fly that had somehow gotten into the Mission Control room; only it wasn’t a fly at all, but a miniature drone. The madcap technical scientists are devastated by this act of sabotage on their latest invention, and we should be devastated too; because that fly wasn’t the imaginative gimmick of a spy comedy bordering on sci-fi, but the very real and latest surveillance equipment of the US Government.
With its usual glossy sales pitch of good will, the US Government’s military research center has described how these tiny drones, built to mimic flying insects, can benefit us in future conflicts. The bugs will be able to infiltrate enemy camps, recording and taking photographs without detection and locate survivors buried under a bomb attacks, a heroic conclusion except it would have been far more comforting if the pitch had concluded that it would help to locate civilians buried under the rubble of a natural disaster. As is in all advancements of technology, the first trend of thought is how it can be used in war.
These war-like tendencies that had once concerned itself mainly in foreign engagements, has in recent years, turned its attention to the vastly growing discontent of the civilians they are supposed to be protecting. Although they are in denial, the first observations of this new technology surfaced in 2007, when civilian anti-war protesters reported seeing bizarre, flying objects hovering above their peaceful march and accused the US Government of secretly developing robotic insect spies. The unofficial comment was a reply to the Daily Telegraph, by Tom Ehrhard, a retired Air Force colonel and expert on unmanned aerial craft, told the Daily Telegraph at the time that ‘America can be pretty sneaky.’
The following year, the US Air Force unveiled insect-sized spies ‘as tiny as bumblebees’ that could not be detected and would be able to fly into buildings to ‘photograph, record, and even attack insurgents and terrorists.’
We should be devastated because the cap has been taken off on what can be described as terrorist activity. American and foreign opposition to any disagreeable government policy can now be technically defined as potential terrorism. This is a very hard blow to the tenements of democratic freedom, which can only be effective as an evolving concept. Under the 4th. Amendment, ratified in 1791, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This amendment was written in at a time when our fore-fathers visualized the unscrupulous means of a tyrannical government to squelch all opposition and sought to safeguard against abuse of power, as tyranny is always the temptation of high office. They were not able, however, to visualize the development of a technology that would have at its disposal the ability to listen in and tape conversations without entering the home, to photograph from a distance, and even to track where people go.
With the advent of the cell phone and Internet communications, wire-tapping has already gone on an unprecedented rampage. The Bush Administration acknowledged that intelligence agencies conducted warrantless eavesdropping on Americans with the help of Telecom companies such as Verizon, AT&T, and Qwest. All three of these Telecom companies faced multiple civil lawsuits related to their handling of phone records and all three have been granted immunity from prosecution.
All three were granted immunity because their services were “necessary” for National Security. Bush put the tender feelings of the Telecom companies ahead of the privacy rights of civilians. Mike McDonnell, Director of National Security, feels that immunity is necessary for encouraging telecommunication agencies to continue cooperating with intelligence agencies and to prevent them from going bankrupt.
The American Civil Liberties Union already has its hands full trying to control an agency full of bugs. They have filed lawsuits, motions, and complaints in over 27 states so far to oppose any legislation that encourages unchecked government surveillance.
We should feel devastated because instead of upholding the law, the government has found ways to get around it in the subterfuge of statutes. Any lawyer will tell you that statutes have nothing at all to do with actual Constitutional law. Statutes are freely written into law by legislators, generally under the prompting of lobbyists, special interests groups; such as real estate companies and insurance firms; to favor and protect their ventures. Statutes are not static nor irreversible. Neither are they voted upon by the citizens. If we took all the statutes and comprised them into one volume, that book would be twenty-four feet long. If we took the time to study all the statutes currently in place, we would discover that under these pseudo-laws, every single citizen is a felon. Is it really any wonder then that the United States has a larger percentage of its population behind bars than any other country on earth?
The technology for the insect sized drone hasn’t been perfected yet. Its movements are mechanical, it can’t hover and it can’t land with precision, but researchers are confident it’s only a matter of time before their tiny machines can fly among the insect crowd virtually undetected. This statement makes it rather obvious that the first concern is not for using artificial bugs as a life-saving advantage. If the drones use was specifically for detecting signs of life buried under rubble, there would be no need for stealth. It would be considered a marvel in engineering. All the evidence points to one great obsession; surveillance of both domestic and foreign populations.
We should feel devastated because a peaceful society is, by necessity, dependent on listening to both sides of any argument or disagreement. It’s built on communications; i.e., free speech, and compromise. A peaceful society cannot exist as an entity ruled by force, squelching all opposition in its formative stage. Nor can the progression of true law, built on the principles of natural human rights evolve into a meaningful statement of modern awareness as long there is fear of government retaliation.
We are fearful. The US Government has repeatedly demonstrated that it puts the rights of monopolistic power ahead of the rights of its citizens. It has demonstrated repeated aggression in foreign affairs, despite the protests of its constituents. It has invaded our privacy. We are fearful because the government has disguised its ill intent behind statutes that were not agreed upon by the constituents and that do not comply with Constitutional law. We should be devastated, but we should not be defeated. A government that spies on its people is also fearful. It fears the power of opposition. It fears the voices of the righteous that would make this opposition a cohesive force. It fears We the People, and rightly so, because together we can dissolve the unconstitutional statutes that justify invasion of privacy through a war on terrorism; a war that is their own making. Together, we can show we are not terrorized; that we are communities that do not need brutal force to govern us, and exterminate the insects of surveillance.