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20130311 Visions of Drones in U.S. Skies Touch Bipartisan Nerve - NYTimes.com

20130311 Visions of Drones in U.S. Skies Touch Bipartisan Nerve - NYTimes.com

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Published by Rolf Auer
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”― Oscar Wilde
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”― Oscar Wilde

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Published by: Rolf Auer on Mar 11, 2013
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Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
Senator Rand Paul at the Capitol onThursday,12 hours after ending his marathon filibuster on drone policy.
Senate Vote 32 — Confirmation of John Brennan as C.I.A. Director
 Visions of Drones Swarming U.S. Sk ies Hit BipartisanNerve
By SCOTT SHANEandMICHAEL D. SHEAR Published: March 8, 2013510 Comments
 W  ASHINGTON —The debate goesto the heart of a deeply rooted  American suspicion about the government, the military and thesurveillance state: the specter of drones streaking through the skiesabove American cities and towns, controlled by faceless bureaucratsand equipped to spy or kill.That Big Brother imagery — conjured up by SenatorRand Paulof Kentucky during a more than 12-hourfilibusterthis week — has animated asurprisingly diverse swath of politicalintereststhat includesmainstream civil liberties groups,epublicanand Democratic la wmaers,conservati ve research groups, liberal activists andright- wing conspiracy theorists.They agree on little else. But Mr. Paul’s soliloquy hastapped into a common anxiety on the left and the rightabout the dangers of unchecked government. And it hasexposed fears about ultra-advanced technologies that arefueled by the increasingly fine line between science fictionand real life.Drones have become the subject of urgent policy debates in Washington as lawmakers from both parties wrangle withPresident Obamaover their use to prosecute the fightagainst terrorism from the skies above countries likePakistan and Yemen.But they are also a part of the popular culture — toys sold by Amazon; central plot points in “Homeland” and a dozenother television shows and movies; the subject of endlessmacabre humor, notably by The Onion; and even thesubject of poetry. (“Ode to the MQ-9 Reaper,” a serious work by the Brooklyn poet Joe Pan that was just publishedin the journal Epiphany,describes the droneas “ultra-cool& promo slick, a predatory dart” that is “as self-aware as
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 A Senator’s Stand on DronesScrambles Partisan Lines(March 8,2013)
Related in Opinion
Op-Ed Contributor: The DroneQuestion Obama Hasn’t Answered(March 9, 2013)
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silverware.”)Benjamin Wittes, a national security scholar at theBrookings Institution who has written extensively aboutdrones, said he thought Mr. Paul’s marathon was a “dumbpublicity stunt.” But he said it had touched a national nerve because the technology, with its myriad implications, hadalready deeply penetrated the culture.“Over the last year or so, this thing that was the province of a small number of technologists and national security people has exploded into the larger public consciousness,”Mr. Wittes said.On the right, Mr. Paul has become an overnight hero since his filibuster. Self-proclaimeddefenders of the Constitution have shouted their approval on Twitter, using the hashtag#StandWithRand and declaring him to be a welcomed member of their less-is-better-government club.“The day that Rand Paul ignited Liberty’s Torch inside the beltway!” oneTea Party activist wrote on Twitter. “May it never be extinguished!”But even as the right swooned, the left did, too. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon — the only Democrat to join Mr. Paul’s filibuster — said the unexpected array of political forces was just the beginning, especially as Congress and the public face the new technologies of 21st-century warfare.“I believe there is a new political movement emerging in this country that’s shaking free of party moorings,” Mr. Wyden said. “Americans want a better balance between protectingour security and protecting our liberty.”P. W. Singer, whose 2009 book “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict inthe 21st Century” anticipated the broad impact of drones, said he believed they had shakenup politics because they were “a revolutionary technology, like the steam engine or thecomputer.”“The discussion doesn’t fall along the usual partisan lines,” he said. The dozen states thathave passed laws restricting drones do not fall into conventional red-blue divisions, nor dothe score of states competing to be the site of the Federal Aviation Administration’s testsites for drones.The serious issues raised by the government’s lethal drones seem inextricably mixed withthe ubiquitous appearance of the technology in art, commerce and satire. A four-minute videoby the Air Force Research Laboratory on “micro aerial vehicles”shows a futuristic bee-size drone flying in an open window and taking out an enemy sniper with a miniature explosive payload. Since it was posted in 2009, it has been viewedhundreds of thousands of times and reposted all over the Web. When Amazon advertiseda six-inch model of the Predator, made by Maisto, in its toy section, people wrote politically charged mock reviews that became Internet hits: “Thisgoes well,” one reviewer wrote, “with the Maisto Extraordinary Rendition playset, by the way — which gives you all the tools you need to kidnap the family pet and take him forinterrogation at a neighbor’s house, where the rules of theGeneva Conventionmay notapply. Loads of fun!”Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, was not laughing Thursday when he took tothe Senate floor to chastise Mr. Paul and defend the use of drones. In aninterview withThe Huffington Post, Mr. McCain dismissed Mr. Paul and the other critics of drones as“the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone.”
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