Drones’ Use and Misuse

Same topic, different views

By Tim Baldwin and Joe Carbonari

By Tim Baldwin

Drones are machines. There is nothing inherently good or bad in them. However, people are rightly concerned about how government, police and military can use them for bad purposes.

Rand Paul recently said in Iowa, “[Republicans have] to run somebody who says…[we’re] the party of the Fourth Amendment…that respects your right to privacy.” Unfortunately, Paul’s message falls on deaf ears for many Republicans. Add to this, many police assume your guilt unless you consent to all their requests. It is the conservative “law and order” perspective here that is dangerous – not the tools police carry. Drones are not used in ordinary police circumstances, but constitutionally limiting police’ use of drones is still vital to liberty because people control them.

Militarily, killing people in foreign nations without Congress’ declaration of war or authorization of force violates the Constitution and Law of Nations. Using drones makes matters worse for diplomacy considering the secretive and distant approach to such unlawful intrusions. Controlling this, however, is difficult because the people have virtually no power in these matters. Perhaps Congress can – not a promising thought.

The debate here is not about machines. It’s about human nature and what the system incentivizes. Drones are here to stay, so build a system that sheds light on government drone use and holds government accountable for drone misuse.


By Joe Carbonari

In the course of trying to kill those that are trying to kill us, we are creating a distressing amount of collateral damage. The drones being used in Yemen and Pakistan are being controlled by the CIA with a fair amount of the actual flying, and triggering, done out of Nevada. There is little risk to our “pilots,” but we are not as sure as we would like to be about who we are killing. Mistakes are made, especially in war.

Arguably, we make the most mistakes when we target based on the “signature” of a target. Signature targets must sufficiently fit a profile. For instance a building may be a “known” Al Qaeda hangout with several cars arriving carrying multiple passengers. “Chatter” may have suggested that an Al Qaeda meeting was planned. This may look like it – in Nevada – or wherever, to whomever calls the shot. It is clean on our end, but is it morally defensible, and is it getting the job done?

Morally, I don’t know enough to pass judgment, but I’m left a bit uneasy. I’m certain I wouldn’t like it if I were an average civilian, a non-combatant trying to live a normal life, with armed drones in the sky. No doubt we make some enemies. Is it worth it?

In the end, diplomacy must prevail.

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