Big Brother on the Wing: Flying Robocop Helps Nab First of Many

Lakota, S.D., is the odd backdrop for what sounds a little like a sci-fi movie plot.

Rodney Brossart, alleged to be an anti-government sovereignist, is apparently the first person to be arrested in the United States with the help of a Predator drone.

Odds are that he won’t be the last, thanks to recent legislation.

The whole incident apparently started when a half-dozen cows wandered onto Brossart’s land and Brossart thought he was entitled to keep them.

When law enforcement came to recover the cows, Brossart and his family allegedly chased off the officers using high-powered rifles.

After the obligatory 16-hour standoff, the SWAT team called in a favor from Homeland Security, which sent over one of its Predators to pinpoint Brossart’s location on the farm.

Brossart, who is scheduled to have his day in court on April 30, is claiming the drone use is illegal.

There’s no telling how the case will come out of course, but considering the police had a warrant before resorting to using the drone, I suspect Brossart’s looking at disappointment.

What’s interesting to government observers should be the addition of yet another means of secret surveillance on U.S. citizens by law enforcement. Those of us who live in cities already face a daily gantlet of cameras, microphones and metal detectors even while doing something as simple as walking into a post office to mail a letter.

Even if the Predator was used reasonably in this case, how long will it be before some enterprising burg like Los Angeles or New York finds itself with the cash to buy and fly a small fleet of drones over the town?

Homeland Security already uses drones to patrol the Mexican border.

President Obama signed legislation in February opening U.S. air space to potentially thousands of drones.

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Peter Singer told CBS, “There’s no stopping this technology. Anybody who thinks they can put this genie back in the box, that’s silliness.”

Republican Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was one of those who pushed through the recent drone legislation that is expected to result in up to 10,000 drones patrolling American skies by 2017.

Aerovironment, which makes the majority of the military’s drones, is already gearing up to make smaller drones for local police departments.

Mica dismissed privacy concerns in an interview with CBS, saying that law enforcement already tracks people through their phones and computer use.  “We live in a new age,” he said.

And apparently the people who are supposed to represent our best interests couldn’t be happier.