For years now, the U.S. Government has been hiding information about how it uses its Predator drones (military-grade flying robots) over domestic airspace. Some general indications of “alternative” uses had leaked out, but we didn’t know the true scale of domestic Predator drone deployment until this week, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a lawsuit and forced the U.S. Government to reveal how often its “border-only” Predator drones had been loaned out for other purposes over the past three years, from 2010 to 2012:
Three trends are especially noticeable:
- The number of “drone loans” by border authorities to other branches of the U.S. government has soared over the past three years, from 21 in 2010 to 191 in 2012.
- The single largest borrower of Predator drones is the Drug Enforcement Agency, the wing of the U.S. government that carries out surveillance in prosecution of its drug war.
- After the Coast Guard, the next-largest borrower of Predator drones is state and local law enforcement. Exactly what police agencies borrowed Predator drones, and to what end? The federal government redacts this information, refusing to say.
Thanks go to the EFF for squeezing this information out of the government and then sharing it freely with the public. This is yet another data point in the pointillist painting of surveillance revelations; stand back from it and you’l notice that the target is not “them.” The target is us.