Is That a Dragonfly or an Insect Spy?

Next time you venture out to an anti-war rally or any sort of political event, beware of the roving robo-spies that are turning up at events in Washington D.C. and New York city.

Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.


“I heard someone say, ‘Oh my god, look at those,’ ” the college senior from New York recalled. “I look up and I’m like, ‘What the hell is that?’ They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects.”

Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.

“I’d never seen anything like it in my life,” the Washington lawyer said. “They were large for dragonflies. I thought, ‘Is that mechanical, or is that alive?’ “

Straight out of some Sci-Fi book or movie, the roving spy-flies some suspect “are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.”

To date, no government agency has admited to deploying the “insect-size spy drones.”

But a number of U.S. government and private entities acknowledge they are trying. Some federally funded teams are even growing live insects with computer chips in them, with the goal of mounting spyware on their bodies and controlling their flight muscles remotely.

However, it is known that “the CIA secretly developed a simple dragonfly snooper as long ago as the 1970s.”

And given recent advances, even skeptics say there is always a chance that some agency has quietly managed to make something operational.

“America can be pretty sneaky,” said Tom Ehrhard, a retired Air Force colonel and expert in unmanned aerial vehicles who is now at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonprofit Washington-based research institute.

As a matter of fact, “Robotic fliers have been used by the military since World War II, but in the past decade their numbers and level of sophistication have increased enormously.”  

Defense Department documents describe nearly 100 different models in use today, some as tiny as birds, and some the size of small planes.

All told, the nation’s fleet of flying robots logged more than 160,000 flight hours last year — a more than fourfold increase since 2003. A recent report by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College warned that if traffic rules are not clarified soon, the glut of unmanned vehicles “could render military airspace chaotic and potentially dangerous.”

Development of spy flies has come a long way since the CIA’s first attempt some 30 years ago, but CIA spokesman George Little said he “could not talk about what the CIA may have done since then.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service also declined to discuss the topic.

Only the FBI offered a declarative denial. “We don’t have anything like that,” a spokesman said.

Really? Unlikely, in my opinion. The folks that brought us unlimited domestic wire-tapping, no doubt have more spy techniques up their sleeve we just don’t know about yet. But thankfully some are willing to look deeper into the origins of the “dragon-spies.”

Three people at the D.C. event independently described a row of spheres, the size of small berries, attached along the tails of the big dragonflies — an accoutrement that Louton could not explain. And all reported seeing at least three maneuvering in unison.

“Dragonflies never fly in a pack,” he said.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice said her group is investigating witness reports and has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with several federal agencies. If such devices are being used to spy on political activists, she said, “it would be a significant violation of people’s civil rights.”

Science is amazing… but when it’s turned against the rights of individuals in America there’s nothing amazing about it. Needless to say… Next time you’re at an anti-war rally, keep an eye out for the roving dragon spies.

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