Claude Walker | Bicentennial-By-Buttons

Letter-to-the-Editor (Re: America isn’t prepared for growing threat of drones - Chicago Tribune, 7-6-18) 

I don’t agree with Homeland Security Czarina Kirstjen Nielsen on much (beyond her apparent fondness for Mexican food). But I agree we’re “unprepared for the threat of drones”. 

Sec. Nielsen notes current laws weren’t written with armed drones in mind. She raises concerns about the looming impact of drones - for good and ill - but her fears and solutions are misplaced. Sec. Nielsen frets about drone use by “transnational criminals” at the border, meth smugglers, ISIS and “our enemies”. Then she seeks to use “drone-defense technologies where we really need them…in urban environments to protect large gatherings and public events.” 

Sure, I worry about droning meth-heads, but let’s also worry about drone-peeping by stalkers, blackmailers and unauthorized law enforcement. Let’s worry about baddies surveilling burglary targets, waging gang warfare or assassinating journalists. Let’s worry about Big Drone and government officials who use fear to curb civil liberties. 

Drones with facial recognition, thermal imaging, tasers…just a start. If drones buzz every concert, parade or rally, people may stay home. We leave our digital cocoons less, so this is a sociological concern as well as privacy threat. Yes, lawmakers and law enforcers must keep up, but in an era of data breaches, let’s err on the side of privacy in drone law reform. 

I say zero-tolerance for drone-peepers. Let’s ban armed drones, enforce “No-Drone Zones” by public buildings, impose surcharges on Big Drone and enact strong victims’ rights. 

And let’s sing the praises of drones, too, which have been used recently in the Thai cave rescue operation and mapping Hawaii lava flows. And if Secretary Nielsen craves Mexican, perhaps she can order drone delivery from “Flying Fish Tacos”. 

- Claude Walker

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