As the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies plan to blanket the skies with spy drones that will keep Americans under almost constant surveillance, at least one drone base is being constructed in the psychological heart of Southern California.
The Navy has issued an environmental impact report for construction of a drone base at Point Mugu, which is at the edge of Malibu and Los Angeles County, a favorite surf spot for locals.
Parts of the website for Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu’s official name, reflect the area’s laid-back beachside attitude, sounding more like a real estate sales brochure than a government resource.
With its vast natural areas and plentiful recreational and cultural opportunities, Point Mugu/Malibu seems like an odd place to station some of the country’s most high-tech flying robots.
The Navy plans up to five flights per day of MQ-4C Triton drones, huge unmanned aircraft that have 131-foot wingspans and that utilize 360-degree sensor suites.
According to information released by the Navy, the drones will patrol the coastal waters, tracking ships and other targets of interest on a 24/7 basis.
The Navy says it will also sometimes track commercial shipping. It doesn’t say that it will be monitoring any of the millions of civilians living nearby.
Color me skeptical. Whenever any government, but particularly our current federal government, says it’s going to conduct military operations near a major city but that we shouldn’t be worried, I wonder what the real story is.
No doubt the Navy will be spending a lot of time watching Chinese submarines, but With nothing but ocean on one side of the base, it stands to reason that much of the drones’ sensor time will be spent observing the populations of the many cities along the West Coast — intentionally or “unintentionally.”
We’d better get used to it. The U.S. government has plans to put thousands of drones into the air in the next few years.
According to publicly available specs required by the Department of Homeland Security’s drone program, the current Predator drones in use are being modified so that their sensors can pick out a single person at a distance, at night, and determine with some accuracy whether he is armed or unarmed. The new Predators can also detect, record and probably triangulate cell phone, mobile device and two-way radio signals.
But don’t get nervous; this is all going to be used only against “bad guys.”
And if you buy that, there’s this bridge in Malibu I’d like to sell to you.