Alameda County's spy drone

Here come the planes: Look out, spy drones overhead

We all knew it was coming, but the ACLU has the docs to prove it's about to start happening here: The Alameda County Sheriff's Office is trying to buy a drone aircraft in part to spy on people.

Now: Sheriff Gregory Ahern has insisted in public statements and in communications to the Board of Supervisors that he wants to use said drone only for search and rescue missions, disaster response, and checking out things like wildfires. But the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have documents they obtained under the California Public Records Act that show the sheriff intends to use the drone for "intelligence and information sharing" -- oh, and to prevent terrorism. Which he's not going to do by flying over wildfires and looking for lost kids.

The documents, which will be released in full Dec. 4 at a press conference on the steps of the County Administration Building, include a grant application to the state's Emergency Management Agency which outlines the proposed uses. "Clearly, if the sheriff's certification to Cal-EMA is true, his office intends to use the drone for surveillance and intelligence gathering, a purpose not clearly disclosed to the Board," staff attorney Linda Lye notes in a letter to the supervisors.

There's an item on the Dec. 4 board agenda giving the sheriff the ability to apply for and receive grants for the drone, and the ACLU, for very good reasons, wants the item continued until there can be some more discussion on this.

Here's the thing about law-enforcement tools: You give the cops a weapon, they're going to use it. Give 'em Tasers, they'll zap people. Give 'em a spy drone, they'll spy on us.

Can you imagine having a spy drone circling overhead when Occupy groups were meeting to discuss actions and tactics? You want it flying near the offices of political groups that the sheriff may consider a threat to public safety? You want it equipped with cameras and listening devices?

The county supervisors at this point have no policy positions on how a drone can be used, because they haven't had to address it yet. But here it is -- the sheriff has already solicited bids from suppliers, and is itching to get that spy baby up in the air. This whole thing needs to slow down.

In fact, state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) just introduced a bill to regulate drones in the state. “I am concerned because domestic drones have the potential to be used for surreptitious surveillance activities that infringe upon fundamental constitutional rights.  We must ensure that there are clear guidelines in place that protect the rights of all Californians,” Padilla says in a press release I just got in my email box.

Maybe the sheriff should hold off spending any money on this thing until there are state guidelines in place. At the very least, the county supervisors should hold off giving him approval until they have rules of their own -- rules that specifically ban the use of the drone for spying. (Oh, and the flight logs need to be public records, so we can see what's really going on with the eye in the sky.)



First, we put up with the Patriot Act, then G.W. Bush's secret program of spying on Americans without a warrant, and now drones. But no one raises a peep (except the ACLU). What next? Indefinite detention of citizens without a trial? Oh wait, we have that too, thanks to the Obama administration. Prepared to embrace your Orwellian future?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

Seriously - why does law enforcement require these when we've all managed to make it pretty far in our history without them?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

If we catch one more murderer, mugger or rapist thru this, then it has been worhtwhile. Innocent souls have nothing to fear.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

How exactly? What does the drone "do" to catch criminals?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

How would having extra eyes on the ground NOT catch more criminals?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

Really? How has that worked in Britain - the most heavily CCTV'd nation in the entire world?

Do you seriously believe a single drone and its cameras cover can every square mile of Alameda county and further - that Alameda county has the resources to monitor the drone's feed of every single square mile of its space? Or would you like little law enforcement drones to arrest people for lighting up in a public park as well?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

interested in doing this. A mobile CCTV, which is effectively what this is, could be useful in a variety of situations, and will save some of the costs of a police helicopter (which Oakland PD no longer has).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 3:58 am

By not having anyone actually watching them -- just like most CCTV cameras. Who can afford salaries after spending all that money on toys?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 10:33 am

People who think "the innocent have nothing to fear" have managed to miss all the news stories over decades about selective police and security-agency harassment of citizens breaking no laws whatsoever. To the bureaucrat wasting taxpayer money, there's nothing more loathsome than someone speaking the truth about it, and no higher priority than shutting them up one way or another. Fortunately, in a democracy they usually just destroy the person's livelihood or relationships with carefully selected "leaks" of incriminating-looking information gleaned from their everyday lives. In a dictatorship they would simply be killed.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 10:37 am

The people you work for are fearful of an uprising by the people when the stock market crashes, which it will inevitably. So they've unleashed a hoard of, drones to spy on us. But since you're helping the effort of the rich and fearful, I don't see what you have to fear...that is, until they come for the trolls.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

It's equally possible to make money if the market goes down. Yes, I know you hate that, but that doesn't make it not true.

Look up "traded options". And, in particular, "put options".

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

The market is a zero sum game.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

It's not a true statement for equities which, over time, given growth and inflation, will go up.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

Aggregate demand to purchase those equities has to go somewhere as do the profits and losses from such sales. At this point, equities are only rising because liquidity is being pumped in at the top not because of any fundamentals. In that sense, it is not a zero sum game because the Fed's balance sheet is practically bottomless and free.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

Equities aren't the only game in town.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 3:59 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

Ahern is completely out of touch with Alameda County. Private prisons, Secure communities, trying to buy drones, this is Alameda County and I hope folks are organizing to get this guy out of office in 2014.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

Of course, SFBG loves out-of-control crime but maybe the residents of AC actually have this wild and crazy idea that criminals should be caught, rather than be cosseted.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

You are failing to engage with the actual issues and are using strawman arguments. You get one more.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 7:07 pm

Or isn't in AC?

How fascinating.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

If you are outside, what real expectation do you have of privacy? Seriously?

Posted by D. native on Dec. 03, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

Ever noticed those security camera's everywhere?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 4:10 am

If your not bredking a law or two what are you afraid of? Stop bring so paranoid.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 12:54 am

are never wrongly accused or convicted of a crime? Yeah, right. Plus the state uses its surveillance powers to repress legal, non-violent efforts to move society in a better direction.

"When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out." -- Martin Niemoller.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 9:38 am

because the weight of all his other crimes counted against him. Perfectly innocent people are rarely convicted, while those who are wrongly convicted often got away with a lot of other crimes.

Again, you have nothing to fear from CCTV unless you are up to no good.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 10:20 am

Guest, you said, "Perfectly innocent people are rarely convicted, while those who are wrongly convicted often got away with a lot of other crimes."

This is false. Many innocent people have been convicted of crimes, including folks without a previous record. This has been well-documented by the Innocence Project and the Center on Wrongful Convictions. In many cases, confessions were coerced through police torture. As of 2012, seventeen states and Washington, D.C. have banned the use of capital punishment for this reason.

Posted by Ana on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

Which are always appropriate for political issues. They've been employed here to compare Ross Mirkarimi's trial to the persecution of the Jews and the banning of nudity to the Holocaust. Why not drag Neimoller's quote out to justify one's position on law enforcement use of drones?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

represents a further increase in the police state and an infringement of our right to privacy so the comparison to the history of Nazi Germany applies.

I give it five years before the state (or private interests) use drones to carry out extrajudicial killings here in the US like the ones Obama (and Bush before him) accomplish in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia. Did I leave out any countries?

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

automatically loses the argument Eddie. It's a specious comparison and worse - you're undermining the case against drones by doing it.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

some sort of referee? The case against drones certainly doesn't depend on some comment or quote someone puts on a website's comment page.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

I will always remember where I was when I read that.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 4:00 am

In January 2012, President Obama claimed that U.S. drone strikes do not cause many civilian casualties. But at the time of Obama’s statement, at least 284 civilians and 62 children, had been killed by drone strikes since January 2009 when Obama came to power. To date, at least 178 innocent children have died as a result of U.S. drone policy.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has introduced H. Res. 819, calling for accountability and transparency in U.S. drone policy. The bill is coming to the House floor this month for debate and a vote. Please sign the petition, then call your legislators to urge them to vote in favor of H. Res. 819:

Posted by Ana on Dec. 04, 2012 @ 6:25 pm