The concept of using unmanned military drones to shoot or otherwise harm American citizens has always been a controversial concept. Some aggressive national security hawks portray the program as a necessary evil in the age of terror, whereas other, more civil libertarian-minded people, argue that the usage of military technology against citizens is alarming at best, and possibly unconstitutional in places. "Where will it end?" This latter group often wonders. "Next thing you know they'll be using drones to get back stolen cows!"
Oh, wait. They have.
In a court case that is sure to make you lose at least some percentage of your faith in humanity, a District Judge in North Dakota has okayed the usage of drones during a 16-hour standoff between police and one Rodney Bossart of Grand Forks, North Dakota. And yes, the standoff was over a group of cows. US News and World Report explains:
Court records state that last June, six cows wandered onto Brossart's 3,000 acre farm, about 60 miles west of Grand Forks. Brossart allegedly refused to return the cows, which led to a long, armed standoff with the Grand Forks police department. At some point during the standoff, Homeland Security, through an agreement with local police, offered up the use of an unmanned predator drone, which "was used for surveillance," according to the court documents.
Grand Forks SWAT team chief Bill Macki said in an interview that the drone was used to ensure Brossart and his family members, who were also charged, didn't leave the farm and were unarmed during the arresting raid.
Brossart faces felony terrorizing and theft of property charges and a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge. Although his charges weren't dismissed, Brossart won a motion to move the trial from Nelson County—which has a population of 3,100—to nearby Grand Forks County.
For this, the state of North Dakota apparently felt a drone was needed. So they brought it in. And, unsurprisingly, Brossart cried foul in Court over the usage of the device, claiming it was used without a warrant.
...And surprisingly, the Judge threw it out:
District Judge Joel Medd wrote that "there was no improper use of an unmanned aerial vehicle" and that the drone "appears to have had no bearing on these charges being contested here," according to the documents.
The Judge's point may or may not be well-taken regarding the issue of the charges, but it doesn't change the fact that no guidelines have been issued for the usage of drones by the Federal Aviation Authority. Thus, these military-grade weapons can be used for practically anything.
Is this what you thought drones would be used for? If not, does it concern you?