The Coming Drone Attack on America

The Coming Drone Attack on America

By Naomi Wolf, Guardian UK

22 December 12

Drones on domestic surveillance duties are already deployed by police and corporations. In time, they will likely be weaponised

People often ask me, in terms of my argument about "ten steps" that mark the descent to a police state or closed society, at what stage we are. I am sorry to say that with the importation of what will be tens of thousands of drones, by both US military and by commercial interests, into US airspace, with a specific mandate to engage in surveillance and with the capacity for weaponization - which is due to begin in earnest at the start of the new year - it means that the police state is now officially here.

In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes that this followed a major lobbying effort, "a huge push by […] the defense sector" to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds - meaning that you won't necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs.

Others will be as big as passenger planes. Business-friendly media stress their planned abundant use by corporations: police in Seattle have already deployed them.

An unclassified US air force document reported by CBS (pdf) news expands on this unprecedented and unconstitutional step - one that formally brings the military into the role of controlling domestic populations on US soil, which is the bright line that separates a democracy from a military oligarchy. (The US constitution allows for the deployment of National Guard units by governors, who are answerable to the people; but this system is intended, as is posse comitatus, to prevent the military from taking action aimed at US citizens domestically.)

The air force document explains that the air force will be overseeing the deployment of its own military surveillance drones within the borders of the US; that it may keep video and other data it collects with these drones for 90 days without a warrant - and will then, retroactively, determine if the material can be retained - which does away for good with the fourth amendment in these cases. While the drones are not supposed to specifically "conduct non-consensual surveillance on on specifically identified US persons", according to the document, the wording allows for domestic military surveillance of non-"specifically identified" people (that is, a group of activists or protesters) and it comes with the important caveat, also seemingly wholly unconstitutional, that it may not target individuals "unless expressly approved by the secretary of Defense".

In other words, the Pentagon can now send a domestic drone to hover outside your apartment window, collecting footage of you and your family, if the secretary of Defense approves it. Or it may track you and your friends and pick up audio of your conversations, on your way, say, to protest or vote or talk to your representative, if you are not "specifically identified", a determination that is so vague as to be meaningless.

What happens to those images, that audio? "Distribution of domestic imagery" can go to various other government agencies without your consent, and that imagery can, in that case, be distributed to various government agencies; it may also include your most private moments and most personal activities. The authorized "collected information may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent". Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told CBS:

"In some records that were released by the air force recently … under their rules, they are allowed to fly drones in public areas and record information on domestic situations."

This document accompanies a major federal push for drone deployment this year in the United States, accompanied by federal policies to encourage law enforcement agencies to obtain and use them locally, as well as by federal support for their commercial deployment. That is to say: now HSBC, Chase, Halliburton etc can have their very own fleets of domestic surveillance drones. The FAA recently established a more efficient process for local police departments to get permits for their own squadrons of drones.

Given the Department of Homeland Security militarization of police departments, once the circle is completed with San Francisco or New York or Chicago local cops having their own drone fleet - and with Chase, HSBC and other banks having hired local police, as I reported here last week - the meshing of military, domestic law enforcement, and commercial interests is absolute. You don't need a messy, distressing declaration of martial law.

And drone fleets owned by private corporations means that a first amendment right of assembly is now over: if Occupy is massing outside of a bank, send the drone fleet to surveil, track and harass them. If citizens rally outside the local Capitol? Same thing. As one of my readers put it, the scary thing about this new arrangement is deniability: bad things done to citizens by drones can be denied by private interests - "Oh, that must have been an LAPD drone" - and LAPD can insist that it must have been a private industry drone. For where, of course, will be the accountability from citizens buzzed or worse by these things?

Domestic drone use is here, and the meshing has begun: local cops in Grand Forks, North Dakota called in a DHS Predator drone - the same make that has caused hundreds of civilian casualties in Pakistan - over a dispute involving a herd of cattle. The military rollout in process and planned, within the US, is massive: the Christian Science Monitor reports that a total of 110 military sites for drone activity are either built or will be built, in 39 states. That covers America.

We don't need a military takeover: with these capabilities on US soil and this air force white paper authorization for data collection, the military will be effectively in control of the private lives of American citizens. And these drones are not yet weaponized.

"I don't think it's crazy to worry about weaponized drones. There is a real consensus that has emerged against allowing weaponized drones domestically. The International Association of Chiefs of Police has recommended against it," warns Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the ACLU, noting that there is already political pressure in favor of weaponization:

"At the same time, it is inevitable that we will see [increased] pressure to allow weaponized drones. The way that it will unfold is probably this: somebody will want to put a relatively 'soft' nonlethal weapon on a drone for crowd control. And then things will ratchet up from there."

And the risk of that? The New America Foundation's report on drone use in Pakistan noted that the Guardian had confirmed 193 children's deaths from drone attacks in seven years. It noted that for the deaths of ten militants, 1,400 civilians with no involvement in terrorism also died. Not surprisingly, everyone in that region is traumatized: children scream when they hear drones. An NYU and Stanford Law School report notes that drones "terrorize citizens 24 hours a day".

If US drones may first be weaponized with crowd-control features, not lethal force features, but with no risk to military or to police departments or DHS, the playing field for freedom of assembly is changed forever. So is our private life, as the ACLU's Stanley explains:

"Our biggest concerns about the deployment of drones domestically is that they will be used to create pervasive surveillance networks. The danger would be that an ordinary individual once they step out of their house will be monitored by a drone everywhere they walk or drive. They may not be aware of it. They might monitored or tracked by some silent invisible drone everywhere they walk or drive."

"So what? Why should they worry?" I asked.

"Your comings and goings can be very revealing of who you are and what you are doing and reveal very intrusive things about you - what houses of worship you are going to, political meetings, particular doctors, your friends' and lovers' houses."

I mentioned the air force white paper. "Isn't the military not supposed to be spying on Americans?" I asked.

"Yes, the posse comitatus act passed in the 19th century forbids a military role in law enforcement among Americans."

What can we do if we want to oppose this? I wondered. According to Stanley, many states are passing legislation banning domestic drone use. Once again, in the fight to keep America a republic, grassroots activism is pitched in an unequal contest against a militarized federal government.


Quote: "... many states are passing legislation banning domestic drone use."

NULLIFICATION is certainly a powerful tool in the fight against Federal overreach.

I'd like to believe

I'd like to believe we're not this stupid -- codifying the police state through word and action.

What could possibly go wrong?

Naomi documents it well.

Fear mongering

This appears to be more fear mongering that does not help anything. Wolf is known for it.

If she recognized and wrote about the facts that could be used to bring down the war machine, like the need for the truth about 9/11, then revelations like this might be more than simple scare tactics. But she does not. Instead, Naomi Wolf wrote a 9/11-truth-bashing article after she was caught on tape by We Are Change LA.

Here's an article I wrote four years ago, which mentions Wolf's odd, propaganda-like attack.


I just read Naomi's article you refer to and your response. Well done. Let me guess, she didn't bother calling you nor anyone else of prominence in the 9/11 truth movement before she penned that lemon? Clearly she did not. Wow, I somehow missed that article. I guess it's time to re-up my subscription to The Guatemala Times.... Odd venue, no?

In my mind she has been one of those journalists who I figured likely knew better, but was making a tactical/practical decision not to go there.

Thanks again for the heads-up, Kevin.

Not in Agreement

I don't see Wolf's article as a direct attack on anyone I respect in the movement.

It seems a well-sculptured piece that clears her of subscribing to *any* 9/11-truth speculation and doubt, while at the same time *not* attacking any factions of the doubt movement that have any credibility and fact-based reasons....

While her distancing herself in this cosmetic manner is disappointing, it's ultimately satisfying that someone of her status can remain firmly ensconced in the mainstream, and perhaps help the "9/11 doubt movement" with her usual darts of suspicion at the official story.

Basically, it's as if she *had* to write this piece to stay off the mainstream anti-radar.


My play-on attempt at time

The low-down dirtyness of that immediate, not only distancing, but smearing that Ms. Wolf perpetrated immediately after the fairly friendly interview with Stewart Howe, had me writing spoofs of her piece:

"A Conspiracy So Immense" by Naomi Wolf

NEW YORK - Is this the Age of the Conspiracy Theory? Plenty of evidence suggests that we are in something of a golden age for citizen speculation, documentation, and inference that takes shape - usually on the Internet - and spreads virally around the globe. In the process, conspiracy theories are pulled from the margins of public discourse, where they were generally consigned in the past, and sometimes into the very heart of politics.

Me: "Conspiracies not so immense as reality: On seeing through the empire’s anti-empiricism and the fascists’ facts, or lack thereof" by Jeremy Rothe-Kushel

LOS ANGELES - Is this the Age of the Conspiracy? A quick answer to this seemingly ahistorical question would be-“yes, as was every other age of human history that involved finance, war and politics of some sort.” However, plenty of evidence suggests that we are in something of a hulking iron age for transnational conspiracies, militaristic imperial speculation, ‘intelligence’-sponsored disinfo-ops and other forms of and plans for physical and psychological warfare that are shaped - often in government offices, 5-star hotel suites, corporate boardrooms or corporatist-funded foundation meeting rooms, but sometimes in the backwoods forests of Marin County or on golf courses or situated around tables on patios in vacation villas- and then rolled out and forcefully projected down from the commanding heights and around the globe as if conducted and then played by a Mighty Wurlitzer. In the process, conspiracies are pulled from these places that actually exist beyond the pale of what is considered to be the permitted space of public discourse, where they have generally come from in the past, and usually pushed right into the very heart of the body politic. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt might have put it, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

more satire

Wolf: I learned this by accident. Having written a book about the hijacking of executive power in the United States in the Bush years, I found myself, in researching new developments, stumbling upon conversations online that embrace narratives of behind-the-scenes manipulation.

Me: I learned this by being curious, paying attention, studying, following the evidence where it led, and thinking for myself. Having not yet written a book, but still fully aware that the hijacking of executive power in the United States took place well before the last eight Bush years, I found myself, in researching new developments, actively learning more and more about the statements that self-styled and self-anointed global elites have made about their semi-openly adopted methods of conspiratorial influence that fully embrace and suggest, if not articulate, plans for behind-the-scenes manipulation.

a couple more satirical paragraphs

Wolf: Students of Weimar Germany know that sudden dislocations and shocks - rapid urbanization, disruption of traditional family and social ties, loosening of sexual restrictions, and economic collapse - primed many Germans to become receptive to simplistic theories that seemed to address their confusion and offer a larger meaning to their suffering.

Similarly, the "9/11 Truth Movement" asserts that al-Qaeda's attack on the Twin Towers was an "inside job." In the Muslim world, there is a widespread conspiracy theory that the Israelis were behind those attacks, and that all Jews who worked in the buildings stayed home that day.


Me: Students of Weimar Germany know that sudden dislocations and shocks - rapid urbanization, disruption of traditional family and social ties, loosening of sexual restrictions, and economic collapse - primed many Germans to become receptive to simplistic but highly destructive state-sponsored myths of the worst sort that seemed to address their confusion and offer a cause to their suffering that existed below or outside their station in society. This is partially why the Nazi leadership readily duped the German people when they told them that a foreign communist had fire-bombed the Reichstag and that it was now necessary to ramp up the “homeland security” with the Enabling Act.

Similarly, the 9/11 Truth Denial Movement, also known individually as 9/11 Falsers, asserts that the criminal corporatist, military-intelligence black-op that was the 9/11/01 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was a "Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda job," accomplished by cocaine-sniffing, porkchop-loving, stripper-dating ‘Islamo-extremists,’ with boxcutters. All throughout the Judeo-Christian and Western secular world, there is a widespread conspiracy ‘theory,’ supported by all the propaganda and disinformation the corporatist power structures can muster, that Arabs were behind those attacks, and that much of the Muslim world is in childish denial of reality because they think that Israeli intelligence was likely involved. In addition to being unwilling to look openly and honestly at the long list of circumstantial evidence implicating elements of Israeli intelligence and their Jewish American “sayanim” helpers, members of the 9/11 Truth Denial Movement rarely, if ever, want to speak about the fact that Israeli intelligence-networks have a long track record of effectively utilizing or attempting false-flag terrorism blamed on Arabs, sometimes against US installations as in the case of the Lavon Affair/Operation Susannah in Egypt in1954. Tangentially, this was the same year that the CIA followed up its successful coup of a democratically-elected government in Iran the year before- a coup that utilized “false-flag” violence and other counter-gang activity- by overthrowing a democratically-elected government in Guatemala for US corporatist interests.

some more comparative satire

Wolf : Usually, conspiracy theories surface where people are poorly educated and a rigorous independent press is lacking. So why are such theories gaining adherents in the US and other affluent democracies nowadays?

Today's explosion of conspiracy theories has been stoked by the same conditions that drove their acceptance in the past: rapid social change and profound economic uncertainty. A clearly designated "enemy" with an unmistakable "plan" is psychologically more comforting than the chaotic evolution of social norms and the workings - or failures - of unfettered capitalism. And, while conspiracy theories are often patently irrational, the questions they address are often healthy, even if the answers are frequently unsourced or just plain wrong.


Me: Usually, the inability or unwillingness of otherwise intelligent individuals to deal with historical realities allows ‘security’ state-sponsored conspiracies, and their concomitantly disingenuous “lone-nut” or “credible” conspiracy theories, to surface and take a hold of large parts of the public mind in times and places when and where denizens of the intellectual class lack a deep intellectual curiosity and commitment, and are educated poorly, meaning with a default setting of siding epistemologically with the perspective and at the whim of those who oppress the people. Additionally, with the advent of intelligence-sponsored ‘journalism,’ it becomes clear that, in those times and places, a rigorous independent press is meant to be lacking. So, with the rise of the internet and the access of all to open-sourced, cooperatively-created multimedia from multitudes of individuals and groups around the world, why are such silly, state-sponsored, ‘santa claus’-ludicrous theories gaining adherents in the US and other affluent allegedly open democracies nowadays?

It’s possible that today's explosion of Arab or Muslim-directed, racist and anti-semitically-driven conspiracy ‘theories’ has been stoked by the same conditions that drove the acceptance of similar boogeyman ‘theories’ in the past: rapid social change and profound economic uncertainty. A clearly designated "enemy" originating from an Other culture on the other side of the world with an unmistakable "plan" to invade and overthrow the West, or, at the very least, successfully attack the military and financial headquarters of the United States, is psychologically much more comforting to wanting-to-be-‘socially-accepted’ ‘intellectuals’ than rationally facing the inherently conspiratorial workings of a global corporatist crime syndicate that includes the highest of treason infecting the deepest bowels of their own society and national security establishment, including otherwise seemingly dissident individuals and publications.

And, while corporatist-sponsored ‘conspiracy theories’ are always patently irrational and perpetually absurd- such as Osama Bin Oswald always lucking out in standing down the FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Military and the laws of physics, and successfully helping cover-up the ‘incompetence’ afterwards- they continually work to convince or at least silence the usually inquisitive people whose potential interrogations they are supposed to answer, people who, ironically, see themselves as the best educated, smartest, most dedicated dissident literati of society. These dedicated, state-sanctioned ‘dissidents’ appear to fully embrace the epistemological warfare being waged against them and the whole of society by taking the absurd crackpot conspiracy or non-conspiracy (i.e. incompetence) ‘theories’ of the corporatist state and media as a default setting of reality or history that need to be respected as such. For example, when one of these ‘dissident’ intellectuals, Noam Chomsky- who has been a professor at MIT, a National Security State hotbed, for half a century- responds to those asking him to look at the independent scientific evidence and analysis about very basic aspects of the World Trade Center buildings 1, 2 and 7 being destroyed with living humans inside on 9/11/01, he implies that the default setting of understanding is that of the Bush administration ‘scientists’ employed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology under the Commerce Department to write a 10,000 page report not looking, apparently, at the actual nature of the destruction sequences themselves of the buildings and humans inside and not investigating for possible evidence not of explosives, including nano-thermite (which many of the NIST ‘scientists’ previously worked on), which has subsequently been found after scientists from around the world decided to look.

later down in the article

Wolf: The mainstream media's tendency to avoid checking out or reporting what is actually newsworthy in Internet conspiracy theories partly reflects class bias. Conspiracy theories are seen as vulgar and lowbrow. So even good, critical questions or well-sourced data unearthed by citizen investigators tend to be regarded as radioactive to highly educated formal journalists.

The real problem with this frantic conspiracy theorizing is that it leaves citizens emotionally agitated but without a solid ground of evidence upon which to base their worldview, and without constructive directions in which to turn their emotions. This is why so many threads of discussion turn from potentially interesting citizen speculation to hate speech and paranoia. In a fevered environment, without good editorial validation or tools for sourcing, citizens can be preyed upon and whipped up by demagogues, as we saw in recent weeks at Sarah Palin's rallies after Internet theories painted Barack Obama as a terrorist or in league with terrorists.


Me: The mainstream media's tendency to avoid checking out or reporting what is actually newsworthy in the facts that form the basis of many Internet conspiracy theories partly reflects class bias, but mainly is due to the fact that the people who ultimately decide whether journalists will continue to get published or draw a salary are from the same cliques of individuals, or are the individuals who orchestrate the conspiracies in the first place. And that’s not even to mention the scores of ‘journalists’ who are actually working for intelligence agencies, a practice we know was done by the CIA under the codename Operation Mockingbird. But even the highest and mightiest of the “dissident class,” scholars such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, while blindly taking the corporatist-sponsored disinformation as default reality, breezily dismiss factually-based scientific analysis of the still seminal event of the ever-older new century as “arcane and dubious” “internet theor[ies],” or of “no practical political significance.” So even good, critical questions about well-sourced data unearthed by citizen investigators or scientific evidence and analyses put forth by experts, tend to be regarded as radioactive to highly educated formal journalists and “dissident intellectuals.”

The real problem with this frantic dash away from facing the facts of conspiracy is that it leaves the denizens of ‘progressive politics’ emotionally agitated but without a solid ground of evidence upon which to base their worldview, and without constructive directions in which to turn their emotions. This is why so many threads of discussion, in person and online, turn from potentially interesting dialogues with pundits from many backgrounds to slander, ad hominems and paranoid intellectual xenophobia. In a tepid intellectual environment, citizens can be morally preyed upon and epistemologically castrated by state-sanctioned, ‘dissident’ demagogues, as we saw in recent years by the utter (manufactured) impotence of the Foundation-funded ‘Left’ in speaking the important and strategic truths that could have helped prevent the political controlled demolition of key cores of Liberty in the Bill of Rights and the ongoing immoral and illegal occupations of sovereign nations that have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings.

finishing up

Wolf: We need to change the flow of information in the Internet age. Citizens should be able more easily to leak information, pitch stories, and send leads to mainstream investigative reporters. They should organize new online entities in which they pay a fee for direct investigative reporting, unmediated by corporate pressures. And citizen investigators should be trained in basic journalism: finding good data, confirming stories with two independent sources, using quotes responsibly, and eschewing anonymity - that is, standing by their own bylines, as conventional reporters do.

This is how citizens can be taken - and take themselves - seriously as documenters and investigators of our common situation. In a time of official lies, healthy investigative energy should shed light, not just generate heat.


Me: We need to restore and rejuvenate the ethics and responsibilities that public intellectuals have in relationship to the flow of information in the Internet age. Citizens should be able to count upon public intellectuals, especially patriotic, dissident intellectuals, to honestly address and not obfuscate the factual nature of the most transformative event of the last decade and trust that mainstream and alternative media investigative reporters will fully interrogate and report upon the biggest story of the young 21st century. Understanding the nature of historical data points, such as deep politically-charged conspiratorial events like the assassinations, infiltrations and disruptions of the 60’s, and the more massive conspiracies of the ‘international terrorism’ of recent decades in all their National Security State-sponsored terror and infamy must be pre-requisite’s that reassure the educated public of an intellectual’s- especially a dissident intellectual’s- grasp of reality.

This is how public intellectuals of all sorts and backgrounds can be taken - and take themselves - seriously as documenters, investigators and analysts of our common situation. In a time of official lies, healthy investigative and activist energy should not just shed light but also generate the intellectual perspicuity and epistemological clarity to face the implications of the truths upon which light has been brought to bear. To this mix must be added the moral courage and heat to strategically, passionately and relentlessly pursue justice in the name of the possibilities of peace for all.

I'd forgotten about that Kevin

I really appreciated your response at the time, Kevin. And still do.

It was quite a stunningly quick and strange manner and venue to distance herself from the movement she had just apparently semi-supported.

I think your analysis of what the domestic drone article accomplishes is a quite fair critique. It reminds me a bit of a piece of video that showed up in almost the same time frame, right before the '08 elections, where Wolf and Daniel Ellsberg were perpetuating the 'OBL may strike' and give Bush a leg up on Obama line.

Ellsberg is another, who, though he should know better by now, with the friends that he has, Peter Dale Scott for one, continues to not use the most powerful tool to undo the Military Police State that has almost fully become of a Republic. And, in fact, reinforces the 'Al-Qaeda did it and is the real threat' at most every turn of matter of war and peace.

Visit with Wolf by Bob McIlvaine and I

A few years ago Bob McIlvaine and I went to Princeton where Wolf was speaking with Chris Hedges. Bob spokeone on one extensively to both people after the talks were done. Wolf agreed to interview Bob and never followed up. She lives VERY close to Ground Zero and it seems her son has suffered from the contaminated air that day. Hedges railed at the cowardice of the liberals as he often does. As far as I know he distances himself from us but is not nasty. His argument is that as a war correspondent he believes there are jihadists. My response is that real jihadists are infiltrated by western intelligence to the extent that it is unclear what jihadist violence would still remain in the infiltration stopped. I would appreciate being contacted by anyone with info on western intelligence infiltration of jihadists. I am aware of the work by Nafeez Ahmed. Any other worthy commentators on this? thanks

Senator Wyden

Senator Wyden: "Mr. Brennan, just when are drones allowed to kill American citizens?"

Maybe he missed:

"When the US Government Can Kill You, Explained":