This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 4, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD HUMPPHREYS, PROFEESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: The kind of mentality that we got after 9/11 where we reinforced the cockpit door to prevent people hijacking planes, well we need to adopt that mentality as far as the navigations systems for these UAVs.
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JOHN ROBERTS, ANCHOR: Professor Todd Humphreys of the University of Texas, who, as you saw a few minutes ago, did experiments at UT and for the federal government, managed to take control of a drone that was flying autonomously with GPS saying that they could be hijacked and potentially turned into missiles. We're back with our panel. Charles, you watched the report. What are your thoughts?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It scared bejeebies out of me. I mean this is amazing that there hadn't been reports about this until I saw your segment here. Look, I'm against drones over American air space on grounds of privacy. But set that aside, we now have a huge national security issue. Here we are spending billions on the TSA, suffering indignities, strip searching toddlers, nuns, and elderly people to protect our airplanes, and we are now speaking about opening up our skies to thousands of these autonomous vehicles which, as you showed, a bunch of graduate students and an assistant professor can take charge of and turn it into missiles like on 9/11. If this isn't completely addressed we shouldn't even begin to think of allowing any in the country. And that would mean fail-safe mechanisms and something built in these so if anything is detected as having been hijacked it self-destructs instantly. But anything short of that we should have these anywhere near our shores. I'd put it over Canada, perhaps, but not over us.
ROBERTS: Why would you do that?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the war of 1812 would be one reason.
ROBERTS: Are you fighting that?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, some of us keep grudges for a long time.
ROBERTS: The drones that will be flying over the U.S. airspace initially will be small, less than 25 pounds. But they could get much bigger. FedEx wants drones to be able to fly cargo from place to place. In fact some of the first experiments with that will take place in Alaska. Right now the method of controlling the drones is fairly rudimentary. You tell it that it is somewhere other than where it thinks it is and it adjusts. But you could probably think that somewhere down the road, somebody will create an algorithm to reverse the controls so they'll be able to take control of it. Your thoughts about this, Rick and Steven? Should the program go ahead, should the government be looking for more fail safe mechanisms as Charles was saying about this?
RICK KLEIN, ABC NEWS: The technology is moving so fast here. The idea of drones was foreign to us 10 or 15 years ago and now we are talking about being all over the air space for all these different purposes commercial ventures, military ventures, obviously governmental ventures, police ventures. Clearly, the regulatory structure and the thinking on this has to catch up with the technological advancements because it raises all sorts of issues about certainly privacy, but much more concerning than that is just actual security if it's that easy to hack these things.
So I think you're going to have to -- there's going to have to be the pause button that's pushed at some point and say let's take a step back let's figure out where these things are going to be, how we regulate that kind of air space because we spend so much time on the commercial airspace. You have to allow that any kind of a drone system would raise lots of security issues.
ROBERTS: It's not just regulating the airspace but it's also hardening the GPS system. DHS, as we reported, Steven, has got a couple of nascent programs going, Patriot Watch and Patriot Shield, to try to detect and perhaps foil this, but the programs are poorly funded. Would you suggest -- and I know how tough you are on spending, would you suggest that those programs to be better funded?
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: No. I would suggest we do everything we can to keeping these things from taking flight in the first place.
ROBERTS: So you don't want to see them up there --
HAYES: I don't want to see them up there. And look, I think there are obviously national security implications, but I would go back to Charles' first point, which was what concerns me even more. Because on the national security side you could get to the point where you have, it's basically a constant race where you're constantly trying to stay one step ahead of your enemies in much the same way that we're doing in cyber security. I think with respect to privacy you can't go anywhere in the country these days without being seen, without being watched. There are huge privacy concerns and civil liberties concerns with these drones. And even if they are put into the air with the best of intentions, I probably wouldn't agree with a lot of those intentions, but even if we all agreed, the possibility for significant abuse of those just scares me.
ROBERTS: Does this seem to you like a tempting terrorist target, Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: Absolutely. When you think about a group in a university working on this probably a few hours on weekends, imagine what would happen if the Chinese or the Iranians or others or terrorists organized decided to work on the technology? I think the Chinese already has. We talked about this earlier, the drone we lost over Iran. It could have landed because it got jammed and has emergency instructions to land. But it could also have been, as the Iranians have claimed, we're not sure if it's true, taken over. And if the Iranians or the Chinese are working on this, we don't want to let this anywhere near us until we figure out how to prevent that.
ROBERTS: To be fair to Professor Humphreys and his team, it wasn't just weekends. They were working on this for months. It's some very, very, very bright minds.
KRAUTHAMMER: But still, the Chinese government versus the University of Texas engineering department. It's a matter of scale.
ROBERTS: Absolutely. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on this Independence Day. We really appreciate you coming in.
That is it for the panel, but stay tuned for a look at how America celebrated its Independence Day. We'll be right back.
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