Brought to you courtesy of funding for the War of Terror. Now, where’s John Connor when you need him.
February 18, 2009
Manitobans on the southeastern border between Canada and the United States aren’t happy with the idea of being watched by American spy planes.
Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon said constituents are expressing concern about their privacy. He believes the U.S. government should have consulted Manitobans when the plan for the remote-controlled planes was first being considered.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection launched the unmanned drone aircraft on Monday. Based at a military facility in Grand Forks, N.D., the $10-million Predator drones are equipped with sensors capable of detecting a moving person from 10 kilometres away.
The aircraft is able to fly at an altitude of 6,000 metres and can remain in the air for 18 hours. The planes will gather information as they fly along the 400-kilometre border and transmit it to operators who will in turn contact border agents.
“I just think we should have been notified. Privacy needs to be respected,” said Graydon. “Where are they storing this information? How long are they keeping this information?”
U.S. officials say the planes are an effort to cut down on terrorist threats and illegal activity, such as smugglers and drug traffickers. The plan is for as many as six Predators to soon patrol the international border from Lake of the Woods, Ont., across Manitoba.
Caution in the post-9/11 world
Maj. Gen. Michael Kostelnik of U.S. Customs and Border Protection says since the Sept. 11 attacks, his government is much more cautious.
“We know there are a lot of things happening. There are weapons and there’s cocaine [and] they’re clearly going north on the border,” he said. “And there’s things like B.C. buds and methamphetamines going south of the border. But the real concerns are things that are happening across the border, both ways, that we really don’t know about.”
Funding for much of the multimillion dollar facility in North Dakota and the Predator drones comes from the United States’ budget to fight the war on terror.
The drones will not carry weapons and the U.S. will need permission to send them into in Canadian airspace.
American officials plan to offer the Canadian government use of one of the Predators for security at the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver.
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