On Thursday, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management held a hearing to discuss the ever increasing use of unmanned drones here in the United States, which not only poses a threat to the right to privacy of every American but may also represent a legitimate national security threat.
Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said that no government agency is addressing the "full implications" of the widespread use of drones domestically and warned that they will "dominate the skies" by 2015.
"We are now on the edge of a new horizon: using unmanned aerial systems within the homeland," McCaul said. "Currently, there are about 200 active Certificates of Authorization issued by the Federal Aviation Administration to over 100 different entities, such as law enforcement departments and academic institutions, to fly drones domestically. This map shows the location of COA recipients as of April 2012. The number of recipients since that time has increased."
This is the map McCaul was referring to:
You can watch McCaul deliver his statements at the hearing, below.
According to McCaul, the FAA plans to select six test sites around the country for the use of non-government drones this year and will allow the deployment of non-government drones nationwide by 2015.
"While the FAA is responsible for ensuring these systems fly safely in U.S. airspace, with only two and a half short years until drones begin to dominate the skies in the U.S. homeland, no federal agency is taking the lead to deal with the full implications of using unmanned aerial systems and developing the relevant policies and guidelines for their use," he explained.
"This is despite the fact that four years ago the Government Accountability Office recommended the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the TSA Administrator to examine the security implications of future, non-military UAS operations in the national airspace system and take any actions deemed appropriate."
In addition to the overwhelming invasion of privacy that overhead drones would cause in America, McCaul also expressed concerns that drones may pose a national security threat. He said in 2004, the TSA issued an advisory that revealed terrorists were perhaps interested in using unmanned aerial systems as weapons.
"The advisory noted the potential for UASs to carry explosives or disperse chemical or biological weapons. It discussed how the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, or FARC, and Hezbollah were interested in acquiring UASs," he said.
McCaul added his concerns were "validated" last week when a Massachusetts man plead guilty to attempting to destroy federal buildings using multiple remote controlled aircrafts rigged with explosives to attack the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon. Rezwan Ferdaus, 26 was arrested in September, 2011 after an undercover FBI sting.
Further, a study by the University of Texas at Austin revealed that drones can be hacked and hijacked with relative ease.
"Specifically, researchers from the Cockrell School of Engineering led by Dr. Todd Humphreys proved that civilian unmanned aerial systems can be hacked into and hijacked with a relatively small investment of money and time," said McCaul. "These findings are alarming and have revealed a gaping hole in the security of using unmanned aerial systems domestically. "
He called DHS's lack of attention to the issue "incomprehensible" and said it shouldn't take another 9/11 style attack to get the agency to figure out how the expansive use of drones in America will impact our national security.
"The Department of Homeland Security mission is to protect the homeland. Unfortunately, DHS seems either disinterested or unprepared to step up to the plate to address the proliferation of Unmanned Aerial Systems in U.S. air space, the potential threats they pose to our national security, and the concerns of our citizens of how drones flying over our cities will be used including protecting civil liberties of individuals under the Constitution," McCaul said.
He went on: "For example, indiscussions with my Subcommittee staff prior to this hearing, Department officials repeatedly stated the Department does not see this function (domestic use of drones) as part of their mission and has no role in domestic unmanned aerial systems. I strongly disagree."
DHS officials declined to testify at the hearing. McCaul issued a straight forward challenge to the agency and other bureaucrats in Washington who are seemingly unwilling to consider the implications before dispatching drones all across America's skies.
"I hope that our witnesses’ testimony will be a call to action for the Department," he added.
(h/t: Fox Nation)