Ed Bedford 11:58 p.m., May 20
San Diego Veterans for Peace, a group which has been holding weekly protests outside General Atomics’ drone manufacturing facility at Scripps Poway Parkway and General Atomics Way in eastern Poway for six months, unveiled a new 1/5 scale model of the company’s Reaper drone, outfitted with a camera tied to a monitor with its screen altered to resemble a targeting scope’s crosshairs.
“We’re out here trying to make people aware of the threat that this technology poses to Americans domestically, and to the world internationally,” explains Dave Patterson, representing the group.
While drone strikes abroad have been a source of controversy for some time, concern about their use on U.S. soil has been getting significant ink and air time in the wake of Senator Rand Paul’s 13 hour filibuster of John Brennan’s CIA nomination. Though opinion is mixed on whether Paul’s stated fears over the use of armed drones domestically are tied to a valid hypothetical situation or simply paranoia, the fact remains that drones used for surveillance, at the least, are coming: the Federal Aviation Administration is preparing for at least 30,000 of the devices to be airborne by the end of the decade. And domestic government agencies are big potential buyers of General Atomics’ products
“Unfortunately, we’re making a lot more enemies than we’re killing,” says Patterson of the families of innocent victims of international drone strikes.
“Here, we’re trying to play up the domestic side of the situation,” he continues. “Because we’re thinking, a lot of people don’t really care about someone dying 10,000 miles away . . . but if we tell them that these things are going to be flying over your house every night and looking in your windows, we can get them thinking that maybe this technology needs another look.”
The drone model and screen now being used by the group as a visual prop is designed to drive home the point that anywhere drones fly, everyone is subject to scrutiny. The model is based off General Atomics’ Reaper, a larger, more powerful version of the well-known Predator drone, capable of carrying 15 times the amount of ordinance over three times the distance.
Patterson points to suggestions made by the Americal Civil Liberties Union as a starting point for suggesting regulation on the use of drones.
“They should not be able to survey your property unless they think there’s a specific crime happening. They should not be able to keep video forever, and they shouldn’t be able to share it with anybody.”
The group’s model drone will be on display at several upcoming functions, including a series of events in early April hoped to initiate a nationwide conversation on the use of drones domestically.