Thursday, 12 March 2009

The UK Spy-Drones (& The Thought Police…..)

Way back in May 2007 I made a post detailing the specifics of our quickly diminishing personal rights in the UK, also foretelling of a truly Orwellian Britain that wasn't just hearsay but which was based entirely on fact, it made for quite disturbing reading (the original post can be viewed here).

I referenced many facets of these pending encroachments of civil liberties and also spoke of the unveiling of the “MicroDrone” and the fact that the UK police were going to commence trial runs utilising it in a civilian environment and capacity. I very rarely speak of such things and admittedly I used a somewhat tenuous premise by comparing the, “MicroDrone” to a UFO, which to be fair was due in most to the recent Californian Drone Hoax which was (at the time) mid-flap and was taking up most of my time.

Well roll on February 2009 and the following article posted by the Daily Mail (online):

Big Brother spy planes that track the Taliban
may soon hover over your home.

Pilotless planes used to track the Taliban could soon be hovering over our streets, it has emerged. Remote-controlled drones are already used widely by the military. Now ministers believe they are likely to become 'increasingly useful' for police work. Armed with heat-seeking cameras, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles would hover hundreds of feet in the air, gathering intelligence and watching suspects.

The Microdrone has been trialled by Merseyside police. The white top features GPS technology, which allows officers to navigate it. It contains a memory card to store recordings from several flights.

In theory, their advantages are clear. They are cheaper and quieter than conventional helicopters, can circle their target for hours without refuelling - and they don't get bored on long surveillance missions.

However, their use is likely to further fuel concerns about our march towards a Big Brother state. Britain already has more CCTV cameras than the rest of Europe put together. More than four million closed-circuit TV cameras cover the streets; cars are monitored using cameras that check registration plates and a new law will see footage taken of shoppers buying alcohol. The plan to deploy 'spy in the sky' planes is outlined in the Home Office's latest Science and Innovation Strategy.

It says: 'Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are likely to be an increasingly useful tool for police in the future, potentially reducing the number of dangerous situations the police may have to enter and also providing evidence for prosecutions and support police operations in "real time".'

Two years ago, Tony McNulty, then a Home Office minister, acknowledged that scientists were exploring the use of UAV technology for a 'range of policing and security applications' .

They could be used by MI5 to watch a suspect's address for long periods or track a car for miles. The drones could also help officers plan raids in locations that are hard to reach, to record and monitor accidents or to spot speeding offences or reckless or uninsured drivers.

Goggles enable officers to see exactly what the drone is filming:

Ministers are liaising with the Civil Aviation Authority about the introduction of UAVs, some of which measure as little as 2ft across. But the document cautions:

'We need to investigate how such vehicles could be used, and their ability to provide high-quality evidence for convictions.'

There are also safety concerns surrounding the planes. Those used by the military are prone to crashes on takeoff and landing. Many have been lost over battlefields. A trial by Merseyside police, of £30,000 remote-controlled miniature helicopters with still, video or infra-red cameras, highlighted more mundane problems related to battery life and the effects of bad weather on flights.

Mark Wallace, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: 'I think a lot of people would be concerned at the Home Office looking to use technology more generally associated with the tribal borders of Pakistan and the fight against terror over British towns to watch the British public…..It is not necessarily as glamorous or as high-tech, but a bobby snapping cuffs on a criminal is the most productive approach.'

Source: Daily Mail

Also posted on February 24th (2009) by the Daily Mail was the following article titled:

I fear a Big Brother state ( reveals David Blunkett)

David Blunkett will today warn of the dangers of allowing an 'oppressive' and 'eventually self-destructive' Big Brother state to develop. The former Home Secretary has concerns about plans for mass data sharing by public bodies and the Home Office's proposal for a giant database holding records of every phone call and internet click. In a speech today, Mr Blunkett will also suggest one solution to the identity cards row would be to make passports compulsory for everyone, with ID cards only being issued to those who want one.

Mr Blunkett will tell the 21st annual law lecture at Essex University: 'We need principles on which we can base actions which may otherwise, in the name of protecting freedom and decency, become oppressive, intolerant of difference and eventually self-destructive.'

Mr Blunkett, who had many run-ins with the civil liberties lobby when Home Secretary between 2001 and 2004, will say there must be 'very clear rules' to protect the public from intrusion by the state and private businesses.

Source: Daily Mail

Remember, this is the person widely heralded as the architect of the ID cards speaking, one of the loudest and most influential voices on the subject back in the day when he was Home Secretary, anyway...... Finally and on a much lighter note, check out this San Francisco Chronicle Mp3 from an unfathomably irate reader and his overly verbose rant on the etymology of the word, “Drone” (drone, drone, drone).

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