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US drones spy on Americans – ‘incidentally’

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Published: 12 May, 2012, 17:28

A leaked US Air Force document stipulates a drone that happens to capture surveillance images of Americans may store them for a period of 90 days. The paper appears to justify spying on citizens, as long as it is “incidental.”

­The document accepts that the Air Force may not record information non-consensually; however it does state “collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent.”

The report, dated April 23 was discovered by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists and has been put online.

Data that is accidentally recorded may be stored for a period of 90 days by the Pentagon while it is analyzed to see if the subjects are legitimate targets for state surveillance. The Pentagon may also disseminate this data among other government organizations if it sees fit.

“Even though information may not be collectible, it may be retained for the length of time necessary to transfer it to another DoD entity or government agency to whose function it pertains,” states the document.

In addition, it justifies the gathering of data on domestic targets in certain circumstances. According to the paper, these include surveillance of natural disasters, environmental studies, system testing and training, and counterintelligence and security-related vulnerability assessments.
The document seems to spell bad news for civil liberties, considering the US government passed a bill in February allocating $63 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

If the bill is signed into law it will effectively allow the FAA to fill US skies with drones, a massive 30,000 predicted to be operational in US airspace by 2020.

Over 30 prominent civil rights groups in the US have rounded on the FAA and demanded that it reconsider the legislation and hold a rule-making session to address privacy and safety threats.

“Unfortunately, nothing in the bill would address the very serious privacy issues raised by drone aircraft. This bill would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected,” said the American Civil Liberties Union in response to the legislation.

The bill has sparked fears among Americans that their civil liberties may be under threat, considering that the use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been extended to carry out attacks on militants.

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The NDAA, The TSA, 30,000 Drones in the Sky by 2020? Is This Still the Land of the Free?

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Posted on April 18, 2012
by Nick Sorrentino

From the Jack Hunter comes this piece. Apparently there are some conservatives on the Hill who are seeking the repeal (or to at least amend) the National Defense Authorization Act which gives the president the authority (though in the Constitution there is none) to detain American citizens indefinitely and without due process. Good on ya House GOP. Though I don’t see leadership endorsing the effort.

To date the push has been led by Republican Congressman Justin Amash, a real shining light of liberty and hopefully a rising star in the House too.  He seeks to raise the profile of the NDAA, and to the degree that we can we seek to help him.

The NDAA is un-American. It is a blot on our country. Never should such power be given to the president. Never.

It is of such concern that recently in Worcester Massachusetts a group of Occupiers and a group of TEA Partiers got together for an afternoon to protest this horrible law. That’s something!

Sadly however the surveillance state continues to grow.

We now live in a society where the TSA can and does accost us every time we get on a flight. We must now take off our shoes, belts, toss out our shampoo, potentially get felt up, and be subject to doses of radiation just to get on a plane.

We have robot cameras on highways issuing speeding tickets. One camera in Washington DC across from the German embassy has issued “tens of thousands.” I heard this morning that someone actually hired a guy to stand with a sign beside the road warning drivers of the camera.

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The Department of Homeland Security is a beast that continues to rage out of control. It, along with other law “enforcement” agencies will soon deploy drones in American airspace. By 2020 the FAA anticipates that there will be 30,000 drones patrolling the skies.  How can a country which calls itself the “Land of the Free” allow this to happen? We will be watched everywhere we go. And why? Because we must thwart terrorism!

I’m sorry but I am WAY more concerned about 30,000 drones peering into the lives of everyday Americans than I am about acts of terrorism. I feel like if we have 30,000 drones flying around watching us then the terrorists it can be said have won. We have abandoned our western liberal ways for an almost subhuman existence in may respects. It certainly is not the life of a “citizen.” Citizens are free people.

We are heading down a very dangerous road here. If Americans don’t really start to buck the surveillance state now, they will never throw it off. But alas, we are all too busy, with jobs, and children, and bills, to notice that the sun is increasingly being blocked out by the government eye in the sky.

The cherry on the surveillance sundae is that as our liberties slip away, one at a time, there are people making big bucks off of every slip.

Looks like Orwell was only off by a few decades.

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USA: Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound Releases Statement Regarding Cape Wind Energy Deal

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Yesterday, Audra Parker, President & CEO of Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound released a statement regarding SJC uphold of Cape Wind energy deal.

“Today’s ruling is a blow to ratepayers, businesses, and municipalities who are being asked to bear billions of dollars in new electricity costs when other green energy alternatives are available at a fraction of the cost.

The good news is the increasingly clear reality that Cape Wind will never be built. Cape Wind has been denied FAA approval, has been denied critical Federal loan guarantees, has no utility willing to buy half its power, and cannot find investors. Those facts alone render this decision moot.”

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Energy companies eyeing drones to survey pipelines

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Cara Bayles
Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 1:24 a.m

New regulatory recommendations expected to be released by the Federal Aviation Administration soon could allow oil-and-gas companies to purchase light-weight unmanned drones akin to those used by the military.

Energy companies already use remotely operated vehicles to monitor and manipulate wells at extreme underwater depths, and unmanned aircraft companies hope that in the coming years, companies will be able to hire or buy aerial drones to survey pipelines, check on hard-to-reach parts of platforms and gather information after an offshore accident occurs.

The current federal regulations were first introduced in 2007, as production and development of unmanned aerial systems began to grow. The proposed regulation changes, which will be released in a few weeks, will be subject to a comment period and review, a process that generally takes 12 to 18 months.

“The concerns about these unmanned aerial systems, whether they’re operating in the Gulf of Mexico or over land, remain the same,” said FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford. “We want to make sure that they’re used in such a way that the safety of other aircraft is not compromised.”

That could be particularly challenging in the Gulf, where, according to Lunsford, planes and helicopters traveling back and forth to offshore rigs make more than 800 trips per day.

California-based AeroVironment already had agreements with several oil-and-gas companies just before the 2007 regulations were introduced, according to Steve Gitlin a vice president at AeroVironment.

“We’re ready,” he said. “As soon as the FAA says ‘Go,’ we’re ready to provide capabilities to the customers who want it. These aerial systems will save money, save lives and allow for more effective use.”

Lindsay Voss, senior program development manager at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said that the FAA’s longtime complaint is that it needs more data, like a complete picture of the drone accident rate.

“You could say there’s a lot of operational time with Department of Defense,” she said. “We probably have about 6,000 hours a year in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it’s difficult to take that info and apply it to national airspace.”

Voss said several companies that operate in the Gulf of Mexico, including Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips, have expressed interest in the technology.

BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said the company has been an industry leader in developing ways to deploy drone technology for pipeline inspection.

“We have been working cooperatively for over five years with other members of the oil-and-gas industry, the aviation industry and the FAA to enable eventual deployment of drones to assist us in leak and machinery threat detection once (new FAA) regulations are in place.”

Currently, BP and other companies use manned helicopters to survey their pipelines. But helicopters can run about $300 an hour, while renting a lightweight drone can cost as little as $20 an hour, said Voss.

Drone makers say their machinery has a range of applications beyond pipeline surveillance as well.

“The color and infrared video could be very useful if they want to check out the condition of an offshore platform. If there’s a disaster, people tend to be evacuated from a platform, but the operator will still want to have eyes on the target,” said Gitlin. “We’ve done some demos for offshore oil companies in the past and, using infrared, were able to detect oil slick in the water.”

Kevin Lauscher, who does industrial sales for the Canadian company Draganfly Innovations, said that in the past year, he’s already sold some drones that weigh less than 10 pounds for deepwater oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

“They’re used for inspectional purposes. It gives them the ability to more easily view platforms, rather than putting people on cranes or scaffolding as they’ve had to do in the past.”

He attributed the boon in sales to the tightening of federal safety regulations in the past year as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster

“Safety has been brought to the forefront as a result of that,” he said.

Voss said that it could be a few years before drones under 50 pounds are flown over domestic waters.

“They’re still at the very beginning of this process,” she said. “It doesn’t look like the rule will be out until 2014. After that, I think we’ll start to see a pick up, but it’s still going to depend on how things go after the agencies put out the rule.”

Staff Writer Cara Bayles can be reached at 857-2204 or at cara.bayles@houmatoday.com.

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USA: Cape Wind Opponents Get Lot of Donations

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Cape Wind’s main opposition group said contributions to its cause surged by 22 percent last year as its donor base broadened amid rising concerns about the offshore energy project’s cost.

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound raised $1.8 million in 2010, up from $1.4 million in 2009, according to the nonprofit’s federal tax return. Emboldened by a recent court victory and rejection of U.S. loan backing for the 130-turbine project, the group said it’s on track for another fundraising gain in 2011.

“We’re definitely seeing a resurgence of support. We’re definitely on the upswing,” said Audra Parker, the Alliance’s CEO. “The better people feel about our momentum, the better our fundraising will do.”

The Hyannis-based group is trying to keep up with skyrocketing legal bills — $1.3 million last year compared to $500,000 in 2009 — through a series of direct mailings to its 5,000-strong donor base and summertime cocktail receptions catering to deep-pocketed supporters on the Cape and Islands. Money has also flowed in via Facebook and Twitter.

“The legal expenses have been huge,” said Parker, a Barnstable resident who joined the group in 2003 and became CEO in 2009. “We’ve shifted phases from more of a regulatory process to court cases.”

The Alliance’s donations fell by half in 2009 to the lowest level since the group started in 2002. But the cash comeback started after details about Cape Wind’s cost to ratepayers — an estimated $2.7 billion over 15 years — emerged when state utility regulators approved the project in November 2010.

“That really changed the playing field, where it was once a Cape and Islands issue … and now it’s become really a statewide issue,” Parker said. “We definitely have more donations coming in … from off-Cape and from individuals who are very upset about the high cost of power.”

By Greg Turner (bostonherald)

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USA: Fight for Nantucket Sound Continues

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You could almost detect the gritty glee in Audra Parker’s statement when, as president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, she said: “This represents a major setback for an already struggling project,” regarding the recent appeals court decision — the alliance filed the appeal — that further delays the implementation of the country’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind.

Like Ali and Frazier, this represents another round in the epic battle of Sound vs. Wind.

The decision rendered on Oct. 28 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (former members include John Roberts and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) is important because the court is considered the second most important behind the Supreme Court.

Principally, because of its “often exclusive jurisdiction” to hear “challenges to … environmental protections” issued by federal agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, Cape Wind is running out of legal options. The FAA is now required to further review the project — it has reviewed the matter for eight years — to determine (as it has previously done) that the turbines pose no threat to aviation.

With aerial anticipation, the alliance is sensing a final knock out.

Citizen advocate groups, single-issue social artifacts, like the alliance, are typically created to profess opposition to, raise awareness of, and are ultimately organized for, elimination of public projects (ironically, created for public benefit) or societal ills, of which, locally, Cape Wind is public enemy No. 1.

For the alliance and its neighboring cousin, Windwise-Cape Cod, among others, rejection is often an easier form of political expression than proposition. The statements they make and alternatives they offer are overly simplistic and are sometimes consumed with more emotion and hyperbole than intelligence and should be challenged as much as the assumptions offered by Cape Wind and other wind projects.

Sheila K. Bowen, president of Windwise, recently wrote of industrial turbines that “they are not environmentally responsible.” Does any thoughtful person, who is serious about energy policy, especially “green” or “clean” energy, really believe that? With that line of reasoning one should come to the same conclusion that the use of combustion engines in school buses, emitting carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, is also not “environmentally responsible.” Stop the buses!

The alliance says “other green initiatives like energy efficiency and alternative power sources, including land-based wind and hydro, can provide power and save the environment at half the cost of Cape Wind.” Preposterous. Do they factor into their calculus that significant upgrades (read, cost) need to be made to transmission lines from an already taxed grid, from places like Maine and Vermont?

Further still, they also support land-based wind projects “when appropriately sited” and in the “general interests of the local community.”

Additionally, “land-based wind is often more favorable than offshore wind due to better economics, less risk and the existence of a regulatory process.” Translation: not happening. Ask the residents of Brewster, Bourne and Falmouth if they believe there are favorable, appropriate sites in their towns.

Should Cape Wind proceed, the alliance believes, citing what should be a questionable Beacon Hill Institute study, that “a loss in property values of $1.35 billion” can be expected and “a reduction in tourist spending of $57 million to $123 million” should be feared.

Finally, the alliance touts “upgrades to existing power plants” (will Parker agree to pay more for the cost?), “deep-water sites” (think Deepwater Horizon), “management of consumer demand patterns through peak-load sharing or shifting” (elaborate how) and “renewable options that can produce constant, reliable generation with lower transmission costs” (what are the options?).

The reality is that there are few options. But Cape Wind, perhaps not economically proficient at the moment, is a viable one. Solar energy provides a cost of nearly double that of offshore wind energy and recent bankruptcies of Evergreen and Solyndra — financed with taxpayer dollars at the local and national levels — is rarely mentioned by those opposed to Cape Wind as a sensible option. Nuclear energy, in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi troubles, does not seem politically expedient either.

So, opponents of Cape Wind, provide better, more detailed options for powering our homes, gadgets and lifestyles, considering our increasing, insatiable demand.

As Sound and Wind take to their respective corners, it is not known when the next round will be, but it is certain that the match, like all fights, will be determined by judges. Sadly, that is a reflection of our flawed and failed energy policies.

James P. Freeman of Orleans is a financial services professional.

By James Freeman (capecodonline)

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