Federally funded drones are “patrolling the skies like never before” in the United States, according to a report released by Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn.
“In addition to armored vehicles, police departments now are also interested in unmanned aerial vehicles — or drones — which they are getting with the use of homeland security funds,” said Coburn’s report titled, “Safety At Any Price,” released on Dec. 5.
“The deployment of these types of surveillance machines raises important questions about American citizens’ constitutional rights and the appropriate balance between improving security and freedom. Federal, state, and local policymakers must carefully consider whether new law enforcement tools and strategies protect freedom or threaten civil liberties.”
The report lists several examples of local police departments acquiring drones with federal taxpayer money through the Urban Areas Security Initiative or UASI, which is a Department of Homeland Security grant program.
“In Texas, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department successfully acquired a $300,000 Vanguard’s ShadowHawk drone fully paid with UASI dollars,” according to the report.
The Seattle Police Department used “nearly $80,000 in UASI funds to purchase a DraganFlyer X6 helicopter, though it insists it is not a drone.”
The report also says the Arlington Police Department of Texas secured a DHS grant to “obtain a drone that was deployed during the Super Bowl in 2011 to help with security.”
In addition to drones, the report mentions that Columbus, Ohio purchased an “underwater robot” with a $98,000 UASI grant.
The United States “cannot secure liberty and guarantee security simply by spending more and more money in the name of security,” Coburn, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“Every dollar misspent in the name of security weakens our already precarious economic condition, indebts us to foreign nations, and shackles the future of our children and grandchildren.”
Coburn argues that the nation’s $16 trillion national debt has “become the new red menace not only lurking in our midst, but created and sustained by shortsighted and irresponsible decisions made in Washington.”