(From Tim Stellar in Arizona Daily Star:
With more aerials drones, our privacy in border region is up in the air
Also, Customs and Border Protection has been unwilling or unable so far to examine and show how it's using the UAVs and how effective they've been. The best data so far says that in fiscal year 2012, CBP's 10 drones logged 5,700 hours in the air and aided in the seizure of 66,000 pounds of illegal drugs as well as the apprehension of 143 people.
Those are tiny fractions of the agency's totals.
In a written answer to questions, CBP spokesman Vic Brabble explained the unmanned aircaft "operates for extended periods of time and allows CBP to safely conduct missions over tough-to-reach terrain or in situations that are too high-risk for manned aircraft or CBP personnel on the ground. The UAS (unmanned aircraft) also provides agents on the ground with added situational awareness to more safely resolve dangerous situations."
But it's hard to know much about the effectiveness of unmanned aircraft because the agency has been typically secretive about the program, New Mexico researcher Tom Barry said in a study released last week by the Center for International Policy.
"CBP has acted as if exempt from the transparency, accountability and performance evaluations that apply to other federal agencies," Barry wrote.
What's clear, he wrote, is that the effectiveness of unmanned aircraft is dictated by the responsiveness of agents on the ground.
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