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Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane….

… No, it’s a Predator B drone!

U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates eight Predators on the northern and southwestern borders of the United States, BUT they don’t just use the drones for immigration and smuggling cases. In what SEEMS like a major case of “overkill,” Nelson County (eastern North Dakota) Sheriff Kelly Janke went looking for six missing cows on the 3,000-acre Brossart family farm on the evening of June 23, until three men with rifles chased him off. So Janke called in the state highway patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputies from three other counties… and a Predator B drone! As the drone circled lazily overhead, its sensors pinpointed the three men and showed that they were unarmed.

The police rushed in and made the first known arrests of U.S. citizens IN the U.S. that were assisted by a Predator drone.

You KNEW it was coming.

The use of a Predator B drone in an alleged cattle-rustling incident is particularly disturbing in a year in which we have seen the 93-7 passage, in the U.S. Senate, of Bill Number S.1867 for the 112th Congress (2011-2012), The National Defense Authorization Act (NDA act) for Fiscal Year 2012. Anonymous, in a “Message to the American People,” states:

This bill, passed late last night in a 93-7 vote, declares the entire USA to be a “battleground” upon which U.S. military forces can operate with impunity, overriding Posse Comitatus and granting the military the unchecked power to arrest, detain, interrogate and even assassinate U.S. citizens with impunity.

Wikipedia notes that:

A recent provision in the NDA act for 2012 has received critical attention [2] because Section 1031 allows for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens[3], an unconstitutional provision[4]. As passed, the 2012 bill includes language in Sec. 1031 & 1032, stating the intent is not to change existing law (such as Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld) regarding the detention of Americans and resident aliens, and excludes Americans from the ‘requirements’ in sec 1032.

The Wikipedia article on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 states:

The Udall Amendment[7] forbidding the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens was rejected by a vote of 38-60.[8] A later amendment to preserve current law concerning U.S. citizens, lawful resident aliens, and others captured within the United States, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, was accepted 99 to 1;[9] Senators Carl Levin <D, Michigan>, Lindsey Graham <R, South Carolina> and others have argued that current law authorizes indefinite detention of American citizens detained in the United States; Dianne Feinstein <D, California> is among those who have argued that it does not.

The White House has threatened to veto the Act,[10] arguing that “the authorities granted by the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, including the detention authority, are essential to our ability to protect the American people… Because the authorities codified in this section already exist, the Administration does not believe codification is necessary and poses some risk.”

Well, it looks very much like “the 1%” are paying attention! 😉

Meanwhile, back in North Dakota….

Local police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration have used Predators for other domestic investigations, officials said.

“We don’t use [drones] on every call out,” said Bill Macki, head of the police SWAT team in Grand Forks. “If we have something in town like an apartment complex, we don’t call them.”

I don’t know “Why NOT?” 😉 Working class (there IS NO “middle class” anymore) taxpayers are PAYING for the drones and their use! :-)

Congress authorized Customs and Border Protection to buy unarmed Predators for the first time back in 2005.

Officials in charge of the fleet cite broad authority to work with police from budget requests to Congress that cite “interior law enforcement support” as part of their mission.

In an interview, Michael C. Kostelnik, a retired Air Force general who heads the office that supervises the drones, said Predators are flown “in many areas around the country, not only for federal operators, but also for state and local law enforcement and emergency responders in times of crisis.”

But former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice <California>), who sat on the House homeland security intelligence subcommittee at the time and served as its chairwoman from 2007 until early this year, said no one ever discussed using Predators to help local police serve warrants or do other basic work.

Harman has gone on record with her opinion that using Predators for routine law enforcement without public debate or clear legal authority is a mistake.

“There is no question that this could become something that people will regret,” said Harman, who resigned from the House in February and now heads the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington think tank.

In 2008 and 2010, Harman helped beat back efforts by Homeland Security officials to use imagery from military satellites to help domestic terrorism investigations. Congress blocked the proposal on grounds it would violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which bars the military from taking a police role on U.S. soil.

Wikipedia notes:

Contrary to popular belief, the <Posse Comitatus> Act does not prohibit members of the Army from exercising state law enforcement, police, or peace officer powers that maintain “law and order”; it simply requires that any orders to do so must originate with the United States Constitution or Act of Congress.

Privacy advocates believe that simplifying the surveillance of U.S. citizens invites MORE of it.

“Any time you have a tool like that in the hands of law enforcement that makes it easier to do surveillance, they will do more of it,” said Ryan Calo, director for privacy and robotics at the Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.

“This could be a time when people are uncomfortable, and they want to place limits on that technology,” he said. “It could make us question the doctrine that you do not have privacy in public.”

Bill Macki, head of the police SWAT team in Grand Forks <North Dakota> said:

“Anything where we need an advantage, we try to give them a call,” said Macki, who declined to specify how often or where he has used the Predators. “We are very fortunate to have them in our area willing to assist us.”

The L.A. Times article tells the story of the arrest of members of the Brossart family, with assistance of the Predator drone. The article makes fascinating reading. According to the article:

The six adult Brossarts allegedly belonged to the Sovereign Citizen Movement, an antigovernment group that the FBI considers extremist and violent. The family had repeated run-ins with local police, including the arrest of two family members earlier that day arising from their clash with a deputy over the cattle.

So what is the outcome of the incident?

Rodney Brossart, his daughter Abby and his three sons face a total of 11 felony charges, including bail jumping and terrorizing a sheriff, as well as a misdemeanor count against Rodney involving the stray cattle. All have been released on bail.

I wonder what U.S. taxpayers paid for the Predator B drone’s flight and staff?

(Note added December 20, 2011: National Guard troops on the southwest U.S. border with Mexico will be reduced in number from 1,200 to 300. However:

In a news release announcing the change, the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon did not cite exactly how many troops would be pulled from the border, but said the “new strategic approach” will increase border security. That approach includes “adding a number of new multi-purpose aerial assets” equipped with the “latest surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.”

Does this sound like Predator B or some other drones to you? :-) I hope that U.S. representatives Ted Poe and Lamar Smith, both Republicans from Texas who are quoted in the article, are happy with the aerial surveillance of Texans.)

-Bill at

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