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March 9, 2013

Deploying Drones in the Homeland …and the Biggest Fear’s the Budget?


Domestic drone deployment? Border hysteria? How about, gimme back my joystick!

You’d think this photo story would be plenty unnerving. It provides a rare view of that which many have been afraid of: Predators deployed domestically – if along the US-Mexico border. The imagery is sublimated, though, to news that the mission is under attack itself — by budget cutbacks brought on by sequestration. So voilà, witness the perfect post-9/11 splitting device, the machinations of big brother overshadowed by the loss of skilled jobs.

border drones 3

Tailoring the story toward economics, the edit banks hard around the militarization taking dead aim at budget strife. Engaging in melodrama, we actually see one of the “air interdiction agents” clutching his head while reading the notice that team members will have to take one furlough day off every two weeks.

Drone border patrol 1
The elegance of the labor drama also helps offset image after image of those sleek bodies, almost enough to fill two year’s worth of Predator calendars. (Cute little bugger. If you pet his nose, he’ll try and reach out and touch you.)

border drones 3
Given so many many drone (and hand wringing) shots, in fact, you almost overlook the fact that there’s only one surveillance photo in the whole batch, albeit the last one. It’s a look at a suspicious group of cows.

In light of the extensive NYT investigative piece today about the drone killing of three Americans in Yemen (only, Alwaki, a high value target) and the ensuing dust storm over the government’s extra-judicial drone killings of Americans, let’s at least hope our boys, when they’re not on their imposed day off, know how to identify a Mexican from an American cow.

Full edit at Zimbio.

(photos: John Moore/Getty Images. caption 1: Air Interdiction Agent Jack Thurston from U.S. Office of Air and Marine (OAM), pilots an unmanned Predator aircraft from a flight operations center near the Mexican border on March 7, 2013 at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The OAM flies the unmanned – and unarmed – MQ-9 Predator B aircraft an average of 12 hours per day at around 19,000 feet over southern Arizona. The drones, piloted from the ground, search for drug smugglers and immigrants crossing illegally from Mexico into the United States. Due to federal sequestration cuts, Customs and Border Protection is expected to lose $500 million from its budget, and OAM staff at Ft. Huachuca are now taking unpaid furlough days once every two weeks as part of the cuts. caption 2: Air Interdiction Agent Will Brazelton from U.S. Office of Air and Marine (OAM), reads over sequestration furlough documents before starting his shift piloting Predator drone surveillance flights near the Mexican border on March 7, 2013 from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona.)

  • bks3bks

    Lends new meaning to a “soul-killing job” does it not?


    • BooksAlive

      Recently, I heard a medical therapist say that these drone operators can suffer from post-traumatic stress as much as they if they had been on the ground.

  • Scarabus

    I like seeing the human face of what we tend to talk about as a concept or tactic. But the humans here are serving a machine. Made me think about the way thoroughbred race horses are tended.

    But mostly I wondered what that story is supposed to be about. I’d have anticipated something like this: The

    [a] mission. Picture of people crossing the border illegally or such.
    [b] technology. Pictures of planes and “cockpit.”
    [c] people using the technology.
    [d] effectiveness of the technology in fulfilling the mission. Capture of undocumented?

    But to end with a drone photo of *cows*?! Are they saying that what the whole project has accomplished is to get aerial photos of cows?

    • black_dog_barking

      I’m guessing for that mission 99.99% of their images are pictures of dirt so cows, here, is probably as good as we’re likely to get on short notice.

  • Gasho

    You know, ‘mindfulness’ is a hot new topic in many fields and the most basic way to understand it is to be in the present moment while you are doing something – to know what you are doing while you are doing it. This is getting big in education, too. They are even teaching kids mindfulness. Mindfulness practice leads to less stress and more compassion – a higher emotional IQ along with more focus and productivity. If we start teaching this to our kids (and directly to our military), maybe there will come a day when NOBODY WOULD DO THIS JOB.

    Here’s to that day! **clink**

  • Dave McLane

    Assuming that my reading of the coords is correct, the cattle were at N31 59 14.4 W112 21 51.6 which turns out to be Tatk Kam Vo, Arizona 85634, AKA Sells, Ariziona 85634, in the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation.

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