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Over Easy: Rolling In the Surveillance Program

 

Hobbyist enjoying AR drone controlled by his iPad

(Picture courtesy of Louish Pixel at flickr.com.)

As substitute for msmolly’s usual Friday post, I felt like this should reflect her interests, and searched for something about our country’s often hamhanded surveillance program.   That wasn’t hard.   It seems with a compulsion to use up the taxpayer funded spy programs by our various’defense’ and ‘security’ operatives, the ATF has been finding ways to throw away the public funding on totally useless and unfunctional drones that seem pretty useless in other ways to the job that body is intended to perform.

The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent about $600,000 on six drones that had so many defects they were never used for video surveillance as planned, and were eventually ditched, the justice department’s internal watchdog reported on Wednesday.

The Office of the Inspector General said it was “troubled” that the ATF, a justice department agency, spent money between September 2011 and September 2012 on drones that were rendered unsuitable.

ATF officials spent $315,000 on one gas-powered drone that was never used “due to multiple technical defects”, the audit found.

In other instances, a $90,000 drone was found to be unreliable and another model had a flight battery time of only 20 minutes, less than half the time the manufacturer claimed.

The ATF did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The report did not name the manufacturer of the six faulty drones, which were eventually given away to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the report said.

After discovering these problems, the ATF suspended its drone program in June 2014. But a week later, another unit in the ATF spend $15,000 on five drones. The report did not say whether those drones had operational problems, but they have since been grounded pending further guidance, according to inspectors.

While there may well be ways of spying on illegal tobacco and alcohol purveyors, the fantasy of detached operations of drones to do that seems more farfetched than most – and here not even peripherally functional.

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.

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