A Prominent Neoconservative Rants Against Drones, Invokes the ACLU

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In a surprising TV appearance, Charles Krauthammer says unmanned aerial vehicles are instruments of war and ought to be banned in the United States.



Appearing on Fox News, Charles Krauthammer said the following about news that domestic law enforcement is increasingly going to use surveillance drones to spy inside the United States:

I'm going to go hard left on you. I'm going to go ACLU. I don't want regulations. I don't want restrictions. I want a ban on this. Drones are instruments of war. The Founders had a great aversion to any instruments of war, the use of the military, inside of the United States. They didn't like standing armies. It has all kinds of statutes against using the army in the country. A drone is a high-tech version of an old Army-issue musket. It ought to be used in Somalia to hunt the bad guys. But not in America. I don't want to see it hovering over anybody's home. You can say we've got satellites, we've got Google Street, and London has a camera on every street corner.

But that's not an excuse to cave in on everything else and accept a society where you're always being watched by the government. This is not what we want. I would say you ban it under all circumstances. And I would predict -- I'm not encouraging, but I would predict the first guy who uses a Second Amendment weapon to bring a drone down that's hovering over his house is gonna be a folk hero in this country.

Even if he's a Muslim-American, Dr. K?

I find this rant fascinating. In one way, it's welcome evidence that there are at least some threats to civil liberties that bother prominent neoconservatives. But it's disheartening and telling that Krauthammer recognizes that the institutional right is so far gone on these issues that to express discomfort with flying robots spying on American citizens from above is to take a "hard-left" position.

Also interesting is that Krauthammer considers drones an instrument of war, but has no objection to America operating them in the airspace of countries we haven't declared war against. As he sees it, the presence of terrorists in America doesn't justify sending drones to hover above the houses of innocent people. But sending drones to hover above the houses of innocent people in other countries?

That's all good.

Still, when a prominent neoconservative calls for a ban on the domestic use of drones and invokes the aversion of the Founders to a standing army, it's a good day. Now if only he'll persuade some of his fellow neoconservatives to go along, reconsider his support for illegal, warrantless spying by the NSA, and reflect on the civil-liberties-destroying effects of unchecked executive power...

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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