I understand drones are effective tools in our military’s aresenal.  I understand they minimize the risk in-close fighting brings to our side. But there is something about this that’s more than a little chilling:

DronePilotsHolloman sits on almost 60,000 acres of desert badlands, near jagged hills that are frosted with snow for several months of the year — a perfect training ground for pilots who will fly Predators and Reapers over the similarly hostile terrain of Afghanistan. When I visited the base earlier this year with a small group of reporters, we were taken into a command post where a large flat-screen television was broadcasting a video feed from a drone flying overhead. It took a few seconds to figure out exactly what we were looking at. A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway adjacent to the base came into the cross hairs in the center of the screen and was tracked as it headed south along the desert road. When the S.U.V. drove out of the picture, the drone began following another car.

“Wait, you guys practice tracking enemies by using civilian cars?” a reporter asked. One Air Force officer responded that this was only a training mission, and then the group was quickly hustled out of the room.

Here, via NoisyRoom.net, is a simulation that brings things into sharper focus:

That’s just a little too easy… and the potential for abuse, very large…

In the wrong hands, in corrupt hands, in hands not morally cognizant of the power being wrought…

Disturbing indeed.

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  • Okay, you can go all “OMG!” on this if you want – but I don’t see it as a problem, or even a concern.

    There’s a pathetic pile of idiots in our country who have no problems at all trusting our politicians to do whatever they might need to do with whatever amount of money they say they need. Foolish to be so trusting, you think? You’d be right.

    As Reagan said in a differing context – “Trust – but verify”.

    There’s a pile of idiots here in the US who also look on all things military with a suspicion bordering on sheer raging paranoia. There’s the black helicopter crowd, the Infowars crowd, the groups who believe there’s massive camps being set up to control dissent – the list goes on and on.

    So – they’re practicing tracking vehicles using civilian cars. The drones are up there. The drones have cameras, naturally, to serve as vision for the pilots. The drones are designed to track vehicles – and the pilots need training.

    Holloman’s way the hell out in the middle of nowhere. (Nice country – I recommend the New Mexico Museum of Space History over in Alamogordo.) There are roads going by, with cars on them.

    Persuade me – what’s the harm in using those for tracking training? They won’t be fired upon, they’re likely to be FAR more random than any military vehicle sent out by the base would be (“Oh, yeah, that’s Jones. That road coming up? He always turns on it, then goes a mile, gets out to water the mesquite, then goes back into town and gets a burger at… 11:17. Regular as clockwork, and about as exciting.”)

    So – you’re worried about being watched by some drone high in the sky? I’d worry more about what’s under the hood. I’m far more concerned about the proposals to install mandatory GPS tracking in vehicles so you can be assessed a ‘road tax’. (As if the tax you’re paying on gas isn’t sufficient, they’d like to know where you travel and when.)


    Sooner or later, you’re going to have to figure out this privacy vs technology thing and come to grips with it. You can’t say that it’s okay to have a gps-tracked road tax, but that it’s not okay to have drones randomly spotting cars and following them for five or ten minutes, because the procedures for the drones MIGHT be misused while the GPS road tax stuff would never be.

    • I can’t add anything to JLawson’s points. He pretty well nails it.

    • 914

      Yep, as long as it’s a ‘Tax’ government can apparently invade your privacy at will.

    • Commander_Chico

      They’re screening your emails, recording your cell phone calls. They are building a massive hard drive to store all of this communications data. A former NSA whistleblower says they are 2 millimeters from establishing a “turnkey totalitarian state.” http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/

      What the government doesn’t directly collect, private telcoms and internet sites do, including GPS location data, the private companies then sell to the government:

      They’ve passed new laws allowing detention of Americans without trial, the NDAA. http://morrisberman.blogspot.com/2012/05/slouching-towards-nuremberg.html#links

      So yeah, I guess drones spying on Americans is no big deal.


      • Training pilots by letting them follow anonymous vehicles for a couple of miles on a public highway is “spying?”

        Inigo Montoya is going to get tired of explaining things to you.

        • jim_m

          Chico’s definitions are applied in an arbitrary fashion to support his fevered arguments. Some people are “traitors” for leaving the US and serving Israel. Others are “Heroes” for doing the same thing.

          Don’t ask for any coherency in his thought process, it’s been taken over by the “Oligarchy”.

      • retired.military

        They’ve passed new laws allowing detention of American”

        You mean Obama and the dem congress he had

  • 914

    “A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway ”

    Shade’s of O.J.

  • Vagabond661

    Too bad they didn’t use them to track guns sales to Mexican drug kingpins.

  • GarandFan

    “A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway adjacent to the base….”


  • I saw an episode of Top Gear where the one guy who can actually drive was at the wheel of a Viper in some small town trying to hide/run from a Cobra chopper. He had three lives to get away and the chopper crew toasted him thrice in about six minutes.

    Which goes to show that even if you’re a wheel man in one of the baddest cars on the planet you’ve got maybe ten minutes to set things straight with your maker once the Feds know where you are and what you’re driving.

    • herddog505

      I did something similar: I and several other soldiers were told off to drive around the back country of North Carolina near Ft. Bragg, posing as an “enemy armored column” while Apaches and Kiowas stalked us.

      “Hah,” we said when we got back. “Those clowns only found us that one time. What losers!” (we’d seen one or two Apaches pop up over the trees one time on our route)

      Then we saw the videos. We would have been dead at any moment five minutes after after getting on the road and never saw or heard a thing.

      Those Apache pilots are (ahem) pretty good.

  • MunDane68

    I remember a video, back when the intarwebz was young of a some young couple in Texas finding an out of the way place for some sweet, sweet, luvvin’ in a convertible…unaware that an Apache Longbow was over the ridge getting the whole episode on the infrared camera. Plus the pilot and gunner convo was hilarious

  • LiberalNitemare

    Its OK everyone. Remember. The democrats are in charge.

    Are you suggesting that we cant trust Nancy, Obama and the rest of the guardians of liberty, justice and special interest voting blocks?

  • herddog505

    I don’t worry too much about this sort of thing. Back in the day, SAC used to routinely practice nuclear bombing missions against US cities (this is dramatized in the 1955 movie “Strategic Air Command”). For that matter, the military has been practicing shooting people since 1775; we’ve never particularly worried that they are practicing to shoot American civilians.

    Yes, Uncle Sugar has TREMENDOUS power and COULD establish a pretty neat little tyranny in a short time. I make no doubt that there are people who would be perfectly willing – nay, happy – to go along with such a thing depending on who was in charge. However, most Americans, including those in the armed services who would have to do the grunt work of establishing and maintaining that tyranny, would not.

    • Commander_Chico

      I think most people, including those in the armed forces, will go along with the tyranny, as in most historical cases. The Bill of Rights does not poll well.

      It would just have to framed in an acceptable way and in response to some stress (another 9/11, riots after economic collapse, a major war)

      I know 90% of your local police and 95% of the feds will enthusiastically go along with it.

      • herddog505

        I disagree. I also very fervently hope that you’re wrong.

        As for the Bill of Rights not polling well… Yeah, libs DO seem to hate the whole Constitution, don’t they?

        • Commander_Chico

          A couple of years ago I was looking at the Oath Keepers website, they were just setting started and seemed to have some good ideas.

          At the time they had an open discussion board, no registration required. I got into some discussions about government surveillance and detention without trial, nobody was really interested, it was all about taxes and guns.

          Anyways, I asked whether Oath Keepers should follow an order to round up all Muslims in the USA if so ordered after another 9/11. Most said they would follow the order, because the Muslims were evil, subversive, working against the Constitution themselves, etc. There were a few who said they would not.

          If you bet on the cruel and tribal nature of humans you will almost always win. The Germans were the most enlightened and advanced society in the world in many ways in 1900. 33 years later . . .

          • jim_m

            33 years later . . .
            They were a leftist dream state.

    • Idahoser

      “yes, Uncle Sugar has TREMENDOUS power and COULD establish a pretty neat little tyranny…”
      hence the need for the Second Amendment, and their need to nullify it.
      If they CAN, then they WILL, it’s only a matter of time.

      • herddog505

        I agree. What astonishes me about the left, who make an industry out of victimhood (past, present, future, real, or imagined), can’t see that an armed man is a helluva lot less likely to be victimized than an unarmed one. One would think that a group that constantly wrings its hands over the klan, rapists, strikebreakers, and The Man would be urging – nay, DEMANDING – that people be armed to resist tyranny and oppression, but the truth is that they are leading the charge to turn us all into easy meat for any grand dragon, brownshirt or hoodlum who happens to come along.

        • jim_m

          the left,…can’t see that an armed man is a helluva lot
          less likely to be victimized than an unarmed one.

          Oh, they can see. THAT’s why they want to disarm everyone. They know damned well that the only way they get what they want is by disarming the public.

  • Rance Frayger

    So what are the alternatives?

    1. You continue letting these people train by following random vehicles in the area around there base.

    2. You send them into action with no hands-on training.

    3. You restrict them to tracking military vehicles. But then “Oh my God! The military is spying on its own people!”