Local Law Enforcement Using Predator Drone Spy Planes For Surveillance

The above video is from a Houston, TX news report that captured video of the local police department testing a new predator spy drone. After realizing they'd been "caught" a police spokesman said that they "would tackle privacy and illegal search issues later."

This report in the Los Angeles Times Sunday evening sent chills down my spine. Already, local governments have used tear gas, flash-bang weapons, rubber bullets, Tasers, and sound canons against Occupy protesters. A sheriff in North Dakota has used predator drones to track cows and would-be cattle thieves. Are Occupy protesters next?

Armed with a search warrant, Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke went looking for six missing cows on the Brossart family farm in the early evening of June 23. Three men brandishing rifles chased him off, he said.

Janke knew the gunmen could be anywhere on the 3,000-acre spread in eastern North Dakota. Fearful of an armed standoff, he called in reinforcements from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputy sheriffs from three other counties.

He also called in a Predator B drone.

For decades, U.S. courts have allowed law enforcement to conduct aerial surveillance without a warrant. They have ruled that what a person does in the open, even behind a backyard fence, can be seen from a passing airplane and is not protected by privacy laws.

But, had anyone imagined the use of predator drones against U.S.citizens when these previous rulings were made?

"We don't have to go in guns blazing," the sheriff said in a telephone interview. "We can take our time and methodically plan out what our approach should be."

"We don't have to go in guns blazing," as I read that, I can imagine future press releases that say, "We don't have to go in guns blazing, but in this case we felt it was warranted."

The glowing green images showed people carrying what appeared to be long rifles moving behind farm equipment and other barriers. The sheriff feared they were preparing an ambush, and he decided to withdraw until daybreak. The Predator flew back to its hangar.

At 7 a.m. the next day, the Predator launched again and flew back to the farm. The drone crew was determined to help avoid a bloody confrontation. No one wanted another Ruby Ridge, the 1992 shootout between the FBI and a family in rural Idaho that killed a 14-year-old boy, a woman and a deputy U.S. marshal.

This time, Janke watched the live Predator feed from his office computer, using a password-protected government website called Big Pipe.


Around 10 a.m., the video showed the three Brossart brothers riding all-terrain vehicles toward a decommissioned Minuteman ballistic missile site at the edge of their property. The sensor operator in Grand Forks switched to thermal mode, and the image indicated the three men were unarmed.

Janke signaled the SWAT team to move in and make the arrests. No shots were fired.

At least no one was killed, at least in the example provided. While I can't imagine what sort of use this would be to law enforcement in their attacks on the Occupy movement, it's disturbing to hear of something that was developed for war being used on U.S. soil, and without warrants. Just a short while ago, I also couldn't imagine pepper spray or rubber bullets being used on peaceful protesters, either.

Perhaps I should be more concerned with the new "shoulder-mounted laser that emits a blinding wall of light capable of repelling rioters," or the 'wireless projectile electronic interceptors' that can be fired a greater distance than Tasers, and long-range chemical irritant projectiles?


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