By SCOTT SHANE and MICHAEL D. SHEAR
WASHINGTON — The debate goes to the heart of a deeply rooted American suspicion about the government, the military and the surveillance state: the specter of drones streaking through the skies above American cities and towns, controlled by faceless bureaucrats and equipped to spy or kill.
That Big Brother imagery — conjured up by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky during a more than 12-hour filibuster this week — has animated a surprisingly diverse swath of political interests that includes mainstream civil liberties groups, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, conservative research groups, liberal activists and right-wing conspiracy theorists.
They agree on little else. But Mr. Paul’s soliloquy has tapped into a common anxiety on the left and the right about the dangers of unchecked government. And it has exposed fears about ultra-advanced technologies that are fueled by the increasingly fine line between science fiction and real life.
Drones have become the subject of urgent policy debates in Washington as lawmakers from both parties wrangle with President Obama over their use to prosecute the fight against terrorism from the skies above countries like Pakistan and Yemen. …
Benjamin Wittes, a national security scholar at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively about drones, said he thought Mr. Paul’s marathon was a “dumb publicity stunt.” But he said it had touched a national nerve because the technology, with its myriad implications, had already deeply penetrated the culture.
Maybe we can start to see how the Afghans and Pakistanis feel, too?