Past, Unpublicized Spy Drone Programs Reveal Surveillance Could Already Be Under Way

There could already be a drone conducting surveillance in the skies above your city, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that discuss a series of surveillance drone tests carried out by the U.S. Marshals Service that have gone unreported for more than seven years.

The documents were obtained through an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request filed in October. The request sought records from five Federal agencies — the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the General Services Administration and the Air Force — pertaining to drone funding, capability, surveillance and domestic use.

The USMS provided a heavily redacted document that explained:

USMS Technical Operations Group’s UAV Program provides a highly portable, rapidly deployable overhead collection device that will provide a multi-role surveillance platform to assist in [redacted] detection of targets.

…This developmental program is designed to provide [redacted] in support of TOG [presumably the agency’s Technical Operations Group] investigations and operations. This surveillance solution can be deployed during [multiple redactions] to support ongoing tactical operations.

ACLU reported that while USMS officials claimed to have uncovered 30 pages of drone-related material, only the above information was provided.

ACLU said in a statement: “It is surprising that what seems like a small-scale experiment remained hidden from the public until our FOIA unearthed it. Even more surprising is that seven years after the program was discontinued, the Marshals still refuse to disclose almost any records about it.”

Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation updated its list of authorized drone flight sites throughout the Nation. The list contains more than 20 new entities — including law enforcement agencies, universities and even an Indian tribal agency — that have been authorized for drone flights since the FAA published a list of sites last year.

Some new drone license applicants are:

  • The State Department.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
  • Barona Band of Mission Indians Risk Management Office (near San Diego).
  • Canyon County Sheriff’s Office (Idaho).
  • Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office (Northwest Oregon).
  • Grand Forks Sheriff’s Department (North Dakota).
  • King County Sheriff’s Office (covering Seattle).

With local law enforcement as well as Federal agencies like USMS seemingly gearing up with spy drones, a number of lawmakers are scrambling to update personal privacy laws to protect American citizens’ 4th Amendment rights.

One bipartisan legislative proposal sponsored earlier this month by Representatives Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) would require law enforcement to prove drone use was based exclusively on criminal wrongdoing. They would also be forced to seek judicial approval and, in many cases, a search warrant before taking to the skies with drones. The bill would also flatly prohibit the use of armed drones.

Despite Claims, Obama’s Inaugural Marines Weren’t ‘Fake’

A few days ago, a website called The Truth Is Viral “broke” a story that the Marines from Marines Corps Barracks Washington, D.C., 8th & I who marched in the President Barack Obama inaugural parade were “ringers.” Based on video of the inaugural parade, the site proclaimed:

On orders from the Obama administration, the bolts from the M1 rifles carried by Marines in the Inaugural parade were removed. Even more shockingly, it appears that the Marines who normally provide security and perform ceremonial functions for the President were replaced with ringers.

Some of the “Marines” that paraded in front of the reviewing stand on Inauguration Day were unshaven, their uniforms out of line and ill-fitting, and their marching skills — in the opinion of this writer and dozens of other real Marines — could easily have been bested by any 3rd phase Marine Corp recruit platoon.

Host Bob Powell challenges former Marines to look at the footage from the video (beginning about 13:00) and pretend to be an inspecting general.

“These, some of these Marines are unshaven,” Powell said. ”If you look at their rank and file, they’re walking all over like ducks. They look like they’re just bouncing back home on the block. These are Marines, they’re supposed to have been marines from Bravo Company Marine Corps Barracks Washington, D.C., 8th & I. All these guys do 24 hours a day,  7 days a week, 365 days a year, is drill, drill, drill.”

After it was posted, the story made the rounds of the anti-Obama Internet sites with the declarative statement, “Obama’s Inaugural Marines Were FAKE.”

In short, no, they weren’t. I personally spoke with a Marine currently serving at Marine Corps Barracks Washington, D.C. 8th & I in Alpha Company. He confirmed that the Marines pictured in the video were Bravo Company Marines whom he knows personally. They were not “fake” Marines. He admitted they were sloppy, but he explained why.

The claim by Powell that all the Bravo Company Marines do is “drill, drill, drill” is untrue. Bravo Company trains mostly in the field to be the first responders in the event of an attack on the Capital. Alpha Company primarily drills and performs the ceremonial functions, including funerals. Also, certain mustaches are allowed, so Powell’s claim there is also bogus.

According to the Marine, Alpha Company marched in the inaugural parade from the Pentagon to the White House. Bravo Company marched from the White House.

As to Powell’s claims that the Marines had the bolts and firing pins removed from their guns, the Marine said Alpha Company’s guns — aside from seven used in funerals — already have the firing pins removed. He did not know why Bravo Company had to remove the bolts from their rifles.

He called it silly, and he said that each Marine was searched by Secret Service agents, as were their rifles and bags, prior to the parade.