Snippets: A Very Drone-ish Edition

Welcome to our latest edition of Snippets, our semi-regular attempt at covering a lot of items in a little time. Some would call this lazy; economists prefer the term 'efficient.' Today I would like to focus on issues and stories related to drone use in the US.

I should forewarn readers that I am going to drift a bit more into editorial-style writing here than I normally do in a Snippets column. For the record, this editorial approach will reflect the fact that I am strongly against the unfettered use of drones domestically. This should be no surprise to regular readers as I have noted my aversion to their current, unregulated use both domestically and abroad more or less subtly in several columns in the past.

Whether or not one agrees with my editorial stance on drone use, it cannot be denied that drones will be a big topic of discussion moving forward. Indeed, I would anticipate that drone use is a topic that will make its way up to the Supreme Court within a year or two.

Despite my relative certainty that The Nine will make some drone-ish decisions fairly soon, it is not entirely clear to me how the politics of the judges would sway the issue if I am correct. While a lot of theretofore questionable practices were approved by the court in the wake of 9/11, it is worth noting that conservative leanings on such issues have drifted dramatically from a neo-con influenced ideology under which security trumped privacy to a Tea-infused privacy over 'government interference' regime.

Whether or not the five more or less reliable conservative votes fall in line behind the libertarian leanings of their party, or maybe if the liberal side of the court might take up the banner of freedom is unclear. In any case, and without further ado, Snippets:

- The topic of drones is particularly timely considering the fact that a court just recently upheld the use of a drone in the arrest of a US citizen domestically.

- Though local law enforcement agencies and some federal agencies are being authorized to use drones regularly by the FAA at this point, the drone in that case was provided by Homeland Security.

- While this may be slightly surprising to some, the fact that the federal government would be utilising such practices has been public for some time.

- Some may not fear drone use because they don't believe they are doing anything wrong. I don't think I am doing anything wrong either, but there is something eerie about something that travels as fast as a plane, can view you from four miles away, doesn't require refueling for hours and can record a few days worth of video, right? Oh, and I forgot, they can also be used to blow things up...

- Especially when versions have been created that look more like mosquitos than fighter jets...To be clear, yes, I understand that drones of the insect variety cannot blow up villages...

- Maybe the best protection against drones is plain old government inefficiency...it appears that Homeland Security has drones at the borders without a strategy of how to utilize them yet. This is as good a point as any to make something clear; I am not totally against drone use. I agree that they could be deployed to assist with border operations, firefighting operations and particular police operations. However, to this point no legislation or agency rulings have placed any limits on their use or storage of the data they collect. Nor are there even any rules to ensure they won't interfere with commercial air traffic.  This is what I find to be troublesome.

- It is possible that all this could change at some point soon, however as drone use has been receiving attention in pretty high places recently.

That is all for now. I suspect this isn't the last time that drones will be a topic of discussion on this page. In the meantime, I would be happy to hear where readers stand on this issue in the comments section below.

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