Why the FBI director is worried about drones

FBI director nominee Christopher Wray
FBI director nominee Christopher Wray The Washington Post

FBI director Christopher Wray told a Senate panel last week that the threat from drones “is steadily escalating,” Reuters reported. Wray told the Senate Homeland Security committee that the FBI assesses that “given their retail availability, lack of verified identification requirement to procure, general ease of use, and prior use overseas, (drones) will be used to facilitate an attack in the United States against a vulnerable target, such as a mass gathering.” The FBI has said drone threats could include surveillance, chemical, biological or radiological attacks or attacks on large open-air venues and attacks against government facilities.

I was not surprised when on Aug. 4, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro was attacked by drones while delivering a speech. I knew that terrorists would eventually get tired of shooting a few people or running over them with vehicles, and instead launch drones packed with explosives far away from their targets, fly them almost silently (perhaps at night) at over 100 miles per hour into unsuspecting targets like the White House, Times Square in New York City, college or high school sports stadiums, open air concerts, schools, etc.

I am confident the Secret Service has the White House surrounded by an electronic jamming system, which it believes will thwart any drone attack. But there are ways around such systems.

For example, let’s say the system works up to a mile radius. All the terrorist has to do is launch the drone from 2 miles away, guide it or them to just over a mile away from the White House, then cut off his communications guidance system, program the drone to ignore all future external communications, and instead transfer control to within the drone itself which flies high and locks on to (or follows GPS coordinates to) the visual image of the White House to complete its attack.

Not only that, but if you look at the cover of Time magazine for June 11, you will see nearly 1,000 drones in the sky over California controlled by a computer program. They could be launched simultaneously against the White House, the president giving an outdoor speech, or against a sports stadium by a disgruntled high-tech student seeking revenge.

Not only could they be launched in this country, or against a foreign leader like President Maduro, but also against Israel. Currently, great attention is being paid to a possible future ICBM missile attack by Iran against Israel.

However, given that Israel could easily knock such an initially slow-moving missile out of the sky, isn’t it more likely that Iran would get its anti-Israel surrogates Hamas and Hezbollah to launch simultaneously computer programmed drone attacks from just outside Israel’s border? These could be launched at night against small Israeli villages, or against Tel Aviv from a barge just off its coast. In the future, you will probably see warring nations use drones rather than soldiers to attack each other.

You might say that even though we may not be able to prevent all such attacks, by requiring all drones to be registered (like guns), we can at least identify and apprehend the terrorists. However, over a year ago, an American court ruled that the government cannot require the registration of drones. Drones will become the preferred weapon of terrorists, and it has just started with the attack upon Venezuelan President Maduro.

Dennis Cuddy, PhD, of Raleigh, is the author of a book about the 9/11 terrorist attack and the Iraq War.