The US Air Force is increasingly relying on unmanned aerial drones to fight America’s wars, with the number of military drone pilots expected to surpass conventional pilots within a year or so. A recent story in the New York Times describes the training of drone operators at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Reporters were stunned when they discovered that trainee drone operators were targeting American civilians as they practiced drone warfare:
“Holloman sits on almost 60,000 acres of desert badlands, near jagged hills that are frosted with snow for several months of the year — a perfect training ground for pilots who will fly Predators and Reapers over the similarly hostile terrain of Afghanistan. When I visited the base earlier this year with a small group of reporters, we were taken into a command post where a large flat-screen television was broadcasting a video feed from a drone flying overhead. It took a few seconds to figure out exactly what we were looking at. A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway adjacent to the base came into the cross hairs in the center of the screen and was tracked as it headed south along the desert road. When the S.U.V. drove out of the picture, the drone began following another car.”
“‘Wait, you guys practice tracking enemies by using civilian cars?’ a reporter asked. One Air Force officer responded that this was only a training mission, and then the group was quickly hustled out of the room.”
With utterly unfounded rumors of the EPA engaging in drone-based surveillance on the rise among some rightwing circles, it’s ironic that it’s Pentagon drone operators, theoretically tasked with protecting Americans, who literally have American SUV drivers in their sights.
- “The Drone Zone” (New York Times Magazine)