Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When the President Gets a Death Button

In the Star Trek episode when Lt. Uhura dressed like Lara Croft,  Captain Kirk revealed the secret behind his rapid rise to power: with a weapon hidden in his quarters, he could press a button and kill anyone on the ship. Kirk didn’t need no stinkin’ badge, arrest warrant, judge, jury or due process of law. Just press the button and zap! Not only did it kill but it completely removed the person from existence so there were no messy remains to handle. The idea that one person in power can kill anyone at any time is so anti-American that the story was set in a parallel universe – a universe diametrically opposed to how America is supposed to operate. Maybe the weapon was initially developed as a defense against a Klingon boarding party or a Romulan spy who had infiltrated the Federation. But how quickly and easily it was turned against anyone on the ship, against anyone who might dare oppose or disagree with the leadership.

Drones currently patrol the American borders with Mexico and Canada, in addition to many foreign countries. Many government officials are pushing to monitor the entire USA 24/7. Photo courtesy Defense Industry Daily.
Now travel back in time from the 23rd century to today. We don’t have the ability to single a person out for death at the push of a button. But we do have unmanned aerial drones. With these, our leaders feel free to kill almost anyone anywhere in the world - even American citizens – seemingly without any regard for the rule of law, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Few of us will cry over the removal of Anwar al-Awlaki but with the capability offered by these drones so comes a responsibility to prevent their reckless implementation. 

We’ve been patrolling our border with Mexico for years, just with cameras, of course, but how quickly will these drones be armed to stop the drug cartels? And surely, we’ll need to deploy them over our southern states to shoot the drug traffickers and track the movements of illegals. 

We’ve also deployed drones to patrol our border with Canada. Their range covers hundreds of miles into American territory, however, and there’s a concerted push to cover American skies (start the video at 8:00 in) with these drones. Citizens will likely think twice before peaceably assembling or occupying a city knowing the surveillance drones overhead are zooming in on their faces for automated recognition and addition to the database of dissidents, threats and enemies. Or, what if and when the drones are armed? Is our leadership really that different from that of Syria or China? We may use police batons before opening fire but American law enforcement always has live ammo at the ready for use against unruly Americans if the rubber bullets and tear gas fail to disperse a crowd.

And from the Washington Post, our newest drones will automatically hunt, target, and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans. That’s actually called a  Terminator, or Nomad for the Star Trek fans and an assassin droid for the Star Wars fans.  

We’ve seen what happens when a government takes the power to kill anyone for any reason without any serious resistance from (or with support of) its citizens. Here are a few pictures of the results. As the power to kill becomes cleaner, easier and safer to inflict, it’s even more important that we pay close attention to who our government is killing and why, and whether they have any legal right to do so. Once we allow the government to kill anyone at any time without concern for the law, then taking your house for redevelopment, taking your money to fill the budget shortfall or taking away your kids for that-time-at-the-supermarket-captured-on-video becomes easy pickins for the government and hard for anyone to fight. If the law doesn't hold up against murder it certainly won't offer any grounds to fight the IRS, OSHA or EPA let alone your local zoning board or health department. 

Look! Up in the sky - it's not a bird or a plane - and it may be coming for you and yours. 

Presidential candidate's take on right to assassinate Americans here - video

More in-depth on issue, including the CIA's hit list - video

UPDATE Feb. 18, 2012: Federal gov't requires FAA to open airspace to accommodate recently purchased 30,000 surveillance drones. (page removed)

UPDATE April 20, 2012: Drone flights approved over U.S. interior airspace. News brief here.

UPDATE March 12, 2016: Military drones now monitoring Americans over U.S. soil. Pentagon admits it here.

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