If you oppose the SPD drones, take action

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    For Liberty

    Hi forum readers, I haven’t posted before but have learned a lot in the past few years from reading your great comments re: privacy rights and the rapidly growing surveillance infrastructure in Seattle. I attended the Seattle City Council Committee meeting today to learn about Council Bill 117707, the proposed ordinance that would regulate many aspects of the Seattle Police Department’s drone usage. The public comments were unanimously opposed to drones, and representatives from the ACLU and the Human Rights Commission voiced strong reservations and pointed out alarming ambiguities in the legalities of drone legislation, and the Councilmembers themselves expressed significant doubt. Its clear that they Councilmembers are putting a lot of research and consideration into this issue, and the option of outright banning the drones is still on the table (recent news stories haven’t emphasized this enough). If we fail to generate enough public outcry to ban them entirely, the lesser evil is CB117707 which provides some level of protection for privacy rights, but leaves a lot of gray areas for the SPD to interpret as they please, a concerning prospect in light of their ongoing issues with civil rights violations. If we banned the drones, we would lose the money from their purchase, but that should motivate us in the future to insist on local oversight on SPD applications for federal Homeland Security grants (the City Council as well as civilian stakeholders e.g. ACLU and HRC could be consulted prior to federal grant requests for purchasing technology to be used on a city level that potentially violates Constitutional rights)

    Time is of the essence to contact the Councilmembers on this Committee and let them know that you support their efforts to protect our privacy rights, and that you oppose the drones and prefer that they be banned entirely. As it stands, right now we still have a chance to make a difference and keep Seattle drone-free. This would also set a good precedent for future discussions on the Alki surveillance cameras. The Public Safety/Civil Rights/Technology Committee is composed of Councilmembers Bruce Harrell, Nick Licata, and Mike O’Brien – here is the Council page with their contact info: http://www.seattle.gov/council/councilcontact.htm



    The surveillance cameras go far beyond Alki. Just so you all know. (Watch for our fifth report, later today.) – Tracy (editor)



    I guess I have nothing to hide so I would not be to worried about it.

    There is always bad stuff going down on Alki, I like the cameras there, if something happens hopefully something was caught on camera.

    Cameras for running red light or speeding in school zone, what is the difference? If I am doing something wrong and get caught well that is my problem.



    It’s curious that there seems to be no public outcry against the use of police helicopters (except for the noise) when they’re being used to pursue criminals. So I’m not sure why it is such an incitement when SPD wants to use something smaller, quieter and cheaper instead.

    All of the Orwellian hyperbole is a bit much, both in regard to drones and about the cameras in PUBLIC places down at Alki and elsewhere. The information about me being collected daily by the private sector is considerably more invasive than a handful of cameras outside along the shoreline. That’s where Orwell really got it wrong. It’s not the largely incompetent government we need to worry about but the adroit corporate interests with their hands in our pockets. The fact that I can do a Google search for ‘Audi’ and then later see Audi ads automatically popping up as ads in random websites I’ve been viewing is a LOT more Winston Smith than a few outdoor cameras.

    My experience from the few times I have ever asked for any kind of help from our City or State government have led me to understand that I’m absolutely unimportant to the local government in just about every way save for my ability to keep writing checks for the tax coffers. So it is hard to believe that there is going to be some kind of evil authority sitting around in a dark room somewhere, twisting his mustache, watching video of me walking along Alki saying: “Oh there’s Boffoli again. Looks like he’s putting on weight. We’d better mark that down in his permanent record!”

    Every day in the WSB is see stories of theft, violence, hit & run accidents and many other cases of people failing to be responsible for their actions. As someone who makes a living from cameras I understand the truth they can tell. They can be more reliable than witnesses. And they can make it harder for criminals to escape with impunity as much as they can hold rogue police officers responsible for their actions. I love it when camera footage is found that helps police hold criminals responsible for their heinous actions. So I think the cameras and drones have more potential for good than bad at this point.



    The following info would be helpful:

    1) Exactly what is SPD proposing to use the drones for?

    2) What safeguards are in place to protect privacy rights?


    For Liberty

    For Liberty

    Re: the Orwellian hyperbole – what I’m most concerned with is the chilling effect mass surveillance has on our rights of free speech and free assembly. Without the full protection and expression of our 1st Amendment rights, we lose the free market of ideas that allows us to evolve our society and culture, and sometimes uncomfortable truths need to be spoken in order for us to change our hearts and minds. I agree that red light runners should be held accountable, but I’m concerned with the government’s rapidly expanding definition of a person who is “doing something wrong”. The Obama administration has taken unconstitutional liberties with this and assassinated an innocent American teenager Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, without charge and without trial. Judge Katherine Forrest has ruled that the language of the NDAA indefinite detention provision could potentially define Noam Chomsky as a terrorist. There are concerns about how the SPD will define a dangerous person that warrants drone attention. At the Committee meeting yesterday, a Councilmember recalled the history of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover calling Martin Luther King Jr. the most dangerous man in America.

    I agree that private sector data mining is worrisome, and more so because national security interests are well represented at Facebook and Google, and the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization leave a lot of gray areas for warrantless information transfer between the private sector and the government. There is an expanding big tent definition of everyone who protests the government or its corporate cronies as a potential terrorist. Some food for thought – the GOP has a statement in their 2012 national platform that says “The war on drugs and the war on terror have become a single enterprise” – could this be interpreted at some point in the future to mean that anyone involved with a drug interaction that is illegal per federal law could be labeled as a terrorist and then subject to indefinite detention or perhaps a targeted drone kill strike? I don’t know, and I never want to find out, and I will do everything possible to protect our individual rights, even if it means a slightly riskier life where some people continue to go uncaught from crimes, and we’re forced to look at addressing the root causes of terrorism/blowback events, and systemic approaches to holding people responsible for their actions – getting rid of the higher-ups that hire/retain rogue police officers, voting out judges that sentence inappropriately, working on restorative justice, ending corporate bailouts etc. etc.




    Sad news.



    the drones have been grounded



    Great use of time and money training officers to operate the drones over the last couple years, only to scrap the whole thing. I swear, this city.



    yes i bought my kid one of those helicopters a few years back, it does take some practice; pun intended


    HMC Rich

    I am glad the Mayor said NO TO DRONES, well the flying kind anyway.

    Christopher, I love your pictures and posts, but Businesses come and go. Yes the data mining is scary and impressive.

    But I am not so much thinking about today but more like 40 and 50 years from now. Will our perceived privacy be more or less in the future?

    I don’t know, but my guess is less. I am against unmanned cameras citing people for breaking the law, but that is one of the problems. Too many people break laws.

    Someone sideswiped a couple of cars down my street a few days ago. They of course did not leave a message because they obviously did not care. If cameras had been present, then maybe they would get caught. I would be happy. But if I casually threw a pop bottle in the garbage instead of recycling, and it was seen by someone monitoring a camera, I could get a fine right now due to the laws. NYC has banned large sodas. Where does it stop?



    LOTS of good thoughts on this thread from everyone. I have bad feelings in my gut in general from both public and private privacy concerns.

    (Just an aside)Anyone read “The Transparent Society” by David Brin?

    When trying to figure out if some entity (public or private) has some intended or unintended maliciousness surrounding a proposed policy I ask this question of the proposer:

    Are you willing to do this to yourself first?

    Be the first one to show what you’ve gathered on yourself? Be the first to show the results of your analysis on yourselves? If your idea is good for the goose, one must assume it’s good for the gander?

    So, Mr. Zuckerberg, Mr. Poindexter, Senator, etc. you go first. Then we’ll see if you still recommend that us unwashed masses need to comply. You don’t want to divulge it to me? Fine. You don’t get mine.

    Oh, and btw, Big Brother is fully engaged. So all of this discussion is essentially moot. Total Information Awareness just went black after it got slapped on the wrist. The budget went from public to not public and the work continued unabated. Every phone call, email, text, video capture is stored and processed. Everyone say “hi”.

    So, we have that going for us.



    There’s a nice graphical chart here that shows what’s being collected and what they do with it. It was posted on DARPA/OIA’s own website before it got pulled down. We are all, digitally naked. And occasionally, in the presence of TSA, physically too. :)




    What this all means is- the terrorists won. A small cadre of zealots with a plan have managed to stampede Americans into becoming a fearful, quivering mass and gave the opening to the Military-Corporate Complex to hijack the Treasury and the Gov’t with the willing compliance of the scaredy cat mob.

    You know what I hate the most? When pundits, elected officials, and even the President himself say “The first job of the President is to keep the American people safe”. No, the first job of the President and every elected official is to uphold their oath and protect the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights!

    Thank goodness for the ACLU and other groups still fighting for our rights against a powerful extra-national force of would-be rulers.



    Exactly right, Dobro.

    I remember predicting our upcoming Police State overreaction on 9/11. A couple of dozen guys with boxcutters and a few hours of flight training successfully pushed us into something that 30yrs. of the Soviet Union couldn’t. Surrendering what makes us different and better for the illusion of security.



    Which begs the question, why?

    The answer is likely quite a tome, but I might suggest that Occam’s Razor wouldn’t eliminate the concept that the MIC needed a replacement for the USSR. Et voila!, we have perpetual war against the ultimate foe – a thought. A thought in someone’s head that we’re the bad guys.

    Wonder how many drone strikes it takes to eliminate that?



    I think the answer is…42.

    Or maybe it’s 11? Cuz it’s one more than 10, init?



    Sorry to see they grounded the drone program.

    I’ve got no issue with the drones or with the cameras along Alki or any other public place the city wants to mount them.



    I would normally agree, JimmyG, as I’m all for catching and convicting criminals. I’m just much less comfortable with what happens in the grey areas than I used to be. I have less faith in prosecutors and judges to hold the line on unwarranted and “byproduct” persecutions based on things stumbled across in general surveillance.

    You look at Gitmo, the SCOTUS decisions over the last decade, etc. and it leads me to believe that collateral damage and the opportunity to abuse power has grown exponentially. Fear has led to paranoia which has led to the dawn of the Police State America.

    Assumption of innocence is becoming a quaint notion, not a starting point of a prosecution.

    Having said that, I’d rather have minicopters with cams overhead than full-size police choppers thumping ominously on those rare occasions.


    2 Much Whine

    Can someone remind me what the difference is between a police helicopter or airplane with cameras and a human pilot at the controls and a little tiny helicopter or plane that has a human “pilot” guiding it from the ground? Certainly I see a huge potential for government cost reduction on many levels. Is it that they could have more in the air or that they are smaller and quieter? We’ve had manned helicopters and planes and I don’t recall many gripes about that. Just wondering.



    2 Much: Actually, there has been a lot of griping, in the form of litigation, about manned helicopters and airplanes being used to conduct warrantless surveillance of individual activities. It just doesn’t get a whole lot of press. Little by little, mostly in the 1980s and early 1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court stripped away whatever constitutional protection had previously been recognized (whether implicitly or explicitly) as prohibiting the government from conducting warrantless surveillance by flying over property, including private property.

    These days, with some exceptions, courts generally find that even if a person has taken steps to protect his or her privacy, warrantless surveillance by helicopter or airplane is not unconstitutional if the pilot abides by FAA altitude and minimum-distance requirements. One of the seminal cases, Florida v. Riley, involved a marijuana grow in a greenhouse on a five-acre piece of property surrounded by a fence with “no trespassing” signs. The police could not see anything from ground level that would suggest criminal activity going on within. When they flew over at 400′, however, they could look down through two broken windows on the roof of the greenhouse to see marijuana plants growing inside. The Supreme Court upheld the search.

    Those of use who are not comfortable with drones being operated by domestic law enforcement agencies are concerned that, because drones may be legally operated at very low altitudes and in close spaces, spaces that many Americans currently would assume are recognized as private may lose their fourth amendment protection.

    Also, there are the issues that others have already noted, among them the risk of abuse and the potential for mission creep. Domestic law enforcement agencies say that they plan to use drones solely for surveillance and mostly for emergencies. Overseas, however, as we all know, drones are armed devices used to assassinate individuals the administration believes are threats to national security. Considering how quickly the Bush and Obama administrations adopted and deployed this technology as a weapons-delivery system, along with the administration’s assertion of sweeping executive authority to decide that certain individuals, including American citizens, can and should be assassinated without due process, it is not unreasonable to be concerned that after a period of time, drones might very well be deployed the same way here. The advantages, from the perspective of law enforcement, are precisely the same ones the administration has recognized: drones are cost-effective and using them significantly reduces the risks faced by law enforcement officers.



    Apparently the Senate has some concerns about the parameters of privacy violations committed with drone technology. Here’s an article on their hearings…




    The ironic thing here is that, from the cops’ point of view, they’re doing us a favor, by trying to be a quieter, less visible presence in our lives.

    The way they see it, we civilians want to eat our cake and have it too. We expect them to get the bad guys without inconveniencing the rest of us in any way.

    Cops won’t admit it in public, but that’s what they’re thinking.

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