I’m working my way up to a post on the cognitive dissonance the government’s treatment of Hedges v. Obama seems to have created over at Lawfare. But first I want to note something odd about this Ben Wittes post, calling Conor Friedersdorf’s endorsement of Charles Krauthammer’s opposition (!) to domestic drones, “silly.” After excerpting what they said, Ben writes,
All of which provokes one question: Do either of these men have the slightest idea what they’re talking about?
More fundamentally, the issue before the FAA right now is not the flying of “instruments of war” over the United States. It is, as Congress put it (see Section 332), the development “of a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.” The key word in there is “civil.” We’re not talking here about standing armies or using the military domestically. We’re not even talking about weapons at all. We’re talking about crop dusters. We’re talking about traffic-monitoring UAVs. We’re talking about journalism. We’re talking, in the longer run, about unmanned civilian cargo transport and, I suspect, air travel. And yes, we’re talking about law enforcement.
Now, like ACLU’s Catherine Crump, I’m not opposed to some domestic uses of drones, like disaster response and climate change response.
But I’m struck by the focus of Wittes’ so-called rebuttal. He seems to be focusing on the requirement–with a 270 day deadline–to set up a plan for civil drones in the national airspace.
(1) COMPREHENSIVE PLAN.—Not later than 270 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with representatives of the aviation industry, Federal agencies that employ unmanned aircraft systems technology in the national airspace system, and the unmanned aircraft systems industry, shall develop a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system. [my emphasis]
He seems to be ignoring the other part of the section that requires FAA–with a 180 day deadline–to set up a program involving 6 test sites.
(1) ESTABLISHMENT.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall establish a program to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system at 6 test ranges. [my emphasis]
Which is curious, because this requirement specifically involves DOD and includes “public” drones, as well as civil ones.
(C) coordinate with and leverage the resources of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense;
(D) address both civil and public unmanned aircraft systems; [my emphasis]
So the first thing that’s happening is the roll-out of these test sites including “public” (DOD, NASA, and DHS) drones, not the plan for the roll-out of “civil” drones.
Not only that, but this requirement appears not just in the FAA reauthorization, but also–as Section 1097–in the Defense Authorization.
SEC. 1097. UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS AND NATIONAL AIRSPACE.
(a) ESTABLISHMENT.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall establish a program to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system at six test ranges.