The Air Force’s drone training program includes tracking American citizens
When the National Defense Authorization Act and the FAA Reauthorization Act were signed into law by Barack Obama 30,000 unmanned drones were authorized to start patrolling the skies over American cities, the United States was deemed a battlefield in the war on terror, and the indefinite detention of American citizens without a warrant was signed into law.
Now comes news that the Air Force is honing its tracking abilities by practicing on civilian vehicles right here in the United States:
Holloman sits on almost 60,000 acres of desert badlands, near jagged hills that are frosted with snow for several months of the year — a perfect training ground for pilots who will fly Predators and Reapers over the similarly hostile terrain of Afghanistan. When I visited the base earlier this year with a small group of reporters, we were taken into a command post where a large flat-screen television was broadcasting a video feed from a drone flying overhead. It took a few seconds to figure out exactly what we were looking at. A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway adjacent to the base came into the cross hairs in the center of the screen and was tracked as it headed south along the desert road. When the S.U.V. drove out of the picture, the drone began following another car.
“Wait, you guys practice tracking enemies by using civilian cars?” a reporter asked. One Air Force officer responded that this was only a training mission, and then the group was quickly hustled out of the room.
This seems harmless–unless of course a drone crashes during one of these training missions–because of course the Air Force must be properly trained on flying drones until you take into account an article I wrote on June 4th when we learned from a declassified memo that the Air Force was authorized to share any data collected during these training missions as long as they weren’t targeting a specific United States citizen. Even if the Air Force determines that the data they collected was non-collectible they can still turn it over to the proper authorities:
according to Article 9.6.1 they are allowed to collect data on United States citizens as long as they aren’t looking for specific information or targeting specific Americans. However Article 9.6.2 declares they may indeed conduct targeted surveillance on American citizens if it is authorized by the Secretary of Defense.
But wait, there’s more: Article 22.214.171.124 states that if the Air Force determines after 90 days that the information it collected was not collectible it must be either purged or TRANFERRED. Where would this ill gotten information be transferred to? That question is answered in 126.96.36.199: to either the Department of Defense or another agency which might find the information valuable.
Now we have confirmation that the Air Force is indeed tracking some American citizens who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and while on its own this might not be alarming it does become much more troubling when a declassified internal memo confirms that the Air Force can turn in any information it just happens to gather on one of these training missions without probable cause and without a search warrant.
When the Air Force was caught tracking American civilians the reporters were quickly removed from the room so they could no longer be privy to what was going on behind closed doors and this leads to one final question. What is the Air Force really training for: Are they simply training drone pilots for use in Afghanistan or are they preparing for a perpetual police surveillance state right here in America?