News reports about government spying – including the use of drones in the US – are worrying many Americans. In protest, one tiny Colorado town is issuing "drone hunting" licenses.
President Obama says the US government doesn’t spy on ordinary Americans with aerial drones or any other technology.
But in the tiny Colorado prairie town of Deer Trail (pop. 500), residents aren’t taking the most powerful man on earth at his word. Instead, they’ve invented a new pastime: drone hunting. And there’s lots of interest. Over 1,000 people have already applied for the novelty license, though the town won’t actually vote on the proposal until Oct. 8.
It’s a half-serious initiative intended as a symbolic protest against what many in the town, and around the country, see as an emerging and increasingly sinister American surveillance state. At the very least, the $25 licenses could raise some revenue for Deer Trail, a rickety plains outpost in a state being considered by the Obama administration for experimental use of civilian drones.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a stern warning that it’s against federal law to shoot down unmanned drones. "Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability,” the agency warned this week.
Concern about excessive domestic spying is politically ubiquitous. But the prospect of Western states being used to experiment with domestic drones by everyone from police to ranchers hit particularly hard in rural America. Those are the kinds of places where people proudly wear T-shirts that proclaim “I’m a right wing extremist” – a tongue-in-cheek reference to something a Justice Department report warned about several years ago.
The American West, too, is where the “black helicopter” conspiracy theories caught fire in the 1990s.
In its second term, the Obama administration has faced allegations ranging from political targeting by the IRS to revelations that the National Security Agency is trolling millions of phone calls in search of suspicious “pairings” of phone numbers that could hint at terrorist connections.